Gambling is a long-standing tradition for traveling professional sports teams in just about every sport, dating back to baseball teams on trains in the early 1900s.
Fights over money won-and-lost is a tradition that started about 5 minutes later.
In today’s NBA, these are ultra-competitive people and that energy carries over to everything, including a game of cards. These athletes don’t like to lose and for that reason don’t like to pay up (it’s rarely about the money and more about the pride). That’s what happened with the Tony Allen/O.J. Mayo fight with the Grizzlies — it was over less than $1,500 (which is not much in NBA circles). But a fight broke out over it and now gambling has been banned on Grizzlies road trips.
Ray Allen told 98.5 the Sports Hub in Boston (via Sports Radio Interviews) there are card games on Celtics flights, but things have not escalated because they are a veteran team with strong locker room leaders.
It takes a mature group of guys to be able to deal with a situation like that. There are cases that on some teams, (banning gambling is) possibly something you should do, but for us, we have a mature group of guys. … We know how to take care of ourselves and be men and make sure that certain things don’t take place. We’re responsible for each other. There’s some teams that just aren’t capable.”
Allen said there is a system in place for the Celtics to deal with gambling debts.
We just have a committee. We always talk about, you have this amount of time to pay your debt, whether it’s the next trip or whatever. So if you’re playing cards and you lose, everybody’s like, ‘You owe this dude that much money, you’ve got to pay him by the next time we get on the plane.’ It’s kind of like out of shame that we get guys to pay each other back.
“I, personally, stopped gambling.”
That may be the wisest bet of all.
The Memphis Grizzlies are trying hard to move past the fight between O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen fight over a gambling debt on a recent flight.
In what the team hopes will be the final act it announced it has fined Tony Allen for his part in the altercation. The release does not mention O.J. Mayo, as first noted by Marc Stein of ESPN on twitter.
That may seem a little odd because by all accounts Mayo was the verbal instigator of the incident. Mayo owed money to Allen from a card-game gambling debt and kept taunting Allen (who has a reputation as a tough guy) to the point that Allen just snapped and took swings at Mayo.
It is possible that there was discipline for Mayo and it was kept within the team. Mayo did not play in the Grizzlies last game for what was officially called a case of bronchitis. Nobody believes it, but that’s their story and they are sticking to it.
For their part, both Mayo and Allen have said they have moved on, as they told the Washington Post.
“Me, O.J. and the team, we pretty much had a whole practice on focusing on our offense and getting better with our defense,” Allen said. “I pretty much think it’s behind us. That’s how we’re looking at it at this point.”
“There definitely was an altercation between me and T.A.,” Mayo said. “By the way, that’s one of my good friends on this team. So, no hard feelings amongst each other.”
Professional athletes gambling while traveling is far from some new issue — what do you think Babe Ruth did to pass the time on train rides, read? Today, when players travel by charter plane, card game gambling is commonplace.
Fights over money won and lost are not uncommon (very few make it public).
The latest fight was between Memphis’ O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen, which led Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins to announce a ban on in-flight gambling, a team spokesman told the Associated Press Wednesday. Gambling in team hotels also has been banned.
Whether or not there had been an official ban, there was going to be no more gambling on flights, Grizzlies captain Rudy Gay said on the Jim Rome radio show.
“From now on, we’re playing Candyland,” Gay told Rome.
Banning gambling is a step several teams took in the wake of the Gilbert Arenas/Javaris Crittenton dispute last year that ended up with the gun incident in the Wizards locker room (and the ensuing suspensions).
The league is not going to mandate the action and apparently will not take action against the players, keeping this an internal team matter.
Mayo did not play Tuesday night for the Grizzlies, officially because of “bronchitis” but nobody actually believes that. He was either still injured — all reports are Allen got the best of the fight by far — or it was a team disciplinary action because Mayo is said to have been the instigator.
The next Grizzlies flight will be Friday.
Tuesday night, O.J. Mayo was out of the Memphis lineup with what was officially called a case of bronchitis, but a swollen face may be the real cause.
Mayo and teammate Tony Allen got into a fight over a debt from a card game on the team’s Sunday night flight and had to be separated by teammates (Yahoo Sports had the story first). Grizzlies’ general manager Chris Wallace confirmed there was an incident in an email to media in which he also said:
“The club considers the matter closed and will not comment further.”
The cause of the fight, according to Yahoo, was money owed from a card game called “boo-ray” (officially “Bourré”) played on the plane, which Mayo lost (more than $1,000) then he antagonized Allen over it refusing to pay.
Expect the league to come in with potentially harsh fines and suspensions — remember it was a fight over money owed from a boo-ray card game between Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton that led to the gun incident in the Washington locker room last year, and subsequent suspensions for the rest of the season. The image-conscious NBA is not going to mess around this time.
This also may cause the league to come in and clamp down on card game gambling on team charter flights, which is a pretty common occurrence (back to Michael Jordan’s Bulls teams and beyond). Several teams took steps after the Wizards incident last year but a league-wide edict would not be a surprise now.