Sports

Cavs HC J.B. Bickerstaff reveals personal threats from gamblers, says sports betting has ‘gone too far’

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J. B. Bickerstaff is speaking out against the effects of sports betting. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

There’s no shortage of sports betting horror stories these days.

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff added to the list Wednesday night when he revealed he was forced to report to the NBA threats he received from gamblers last season.

“They got my telephone number and were sending me crazy messages about where I live and my kids and all that stuff,” Bickerstaff told reporters before the Cavaliers fell 107-104 to the Miami Heat. “So it is a dangerous game and a fine line that we’re walking for sure.”

Bickerstaff added that the individual was found but no charges were pressed against him.

His comments were made in response to a question referencing Indiana Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton’s recent admission of sometimes feeling he is seen as nothing more than a betting “prop.” The 24-year-old was discussing the importance of speaking to a sports psychologist as an athlete who often receives messages on social media regarding his performance from sports bettors.

“Not everybody cares to hear how we feel,” he said. “To half the world, I’m just helping them make money on DraftKings or whatever.”

The league needs to work to protect referees, players and other personnel from the distraction sports betting can cause, Bickerstaff said. His mention of NBA officials came after Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert said gambling is “hurting our game” following a road loss to Cleveland March 8. Gobert implied gambling influenced referees during the game, which saw him draw a costly technical for making a money gesture toward an official.

Bickerstaff seems to agree with the general sentiment, which is that sports betting is becoming too enmeshed in sports for comfort.

“We really have to be careful of how close we let it get to the game and the people who are involved in it,” he said. “Because again, it does carry a weight. A lot of times the people who are gambling like this money pays their light bill or pay their rent, and then the emotions that come from that.”

Cleveland has a sportsbook inside Rocket Mortage FieldHouse, the arena that hosts the Cavaliers, which allows fans to gamble live.

“There’s no doubt about it that it’s crossed the line,” Bickerstaff said. “The amount of times where I’m standing up there and we may have a 10-point lead and the spread is 11 and people are yelling at me to leave the guys in so that we can cover the spread, it’s ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, media reports of serious gambling issues in sports seem to keep surfacing. On the same day that Bickerstaff made his comments, Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter was reportedly fired for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from the two-way phenom to place bets.

Last week in the NFL, a former Jacksonville Jaguars employee was sentenced to more than six years in prison for a $22 million embezzlement scheme he pursued while with the team from 2018-23. The employee’s attorney claimed that the embezzled money was used to finance a gambling addiction.




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