One of the biggest black marks in NFL history came in 1963 when the league suspended two of its star players for the season for betting on games. With one fell swoop, the league levied severe punishments to Paul Hornung, the former Notre Dame star and league MVP in 1961 with the Green Bay Packers and Alex Karras, an All-Pro defensive lineman for the Detroit Lions. The suspensions were controversial but proved that the NFL had learned from betting scandals that had beset college basketball in the early 1950s and meant business about gambling.
Hornung and Karras were forced to miss the 1963 season by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle after it was discovered that they had each regularly bet on the outcomes of their team’s games (Hornung had bet up to $500 on games while Karras had placed bets ranging from $50 to $100). In addition, both Hornung and Karras had kept fast company including being seen with friends who were also reputed to have connections to gambling and organized crime,
Unlike in many other sports betting scandals, both Hornung and Karras admitted their transgressions and accepted their punishments. Their contrition was enough for Rozelle to allow them to come back for the 1964 season and resume their careers. During a game in 1964, Karras refused to make a call of the opening coin toss, telling the referee that he “wasn’t permitted to gamble.”