MLS Midfielder Felipe Hernandez Placed on Administrative Leave for Suspected Gambling Violation

Major League Soccer (MLS) has placed Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Hernandez on administrative leave amid suspicions that he may have violated the league’s gambling policies for a second time. This development comes less than three years after Hernandez was previously suspended at the end of the 2021 season for breaching the league’s gambling integrity rules and standards of conduct.

Previous Suspension in 2021

Hernandez had previously wagered on two MLS matches, an action that is strictly prohibited by the league. Importantly, neither of these games involved his own team. During the investigation, no evidence was found to suggest that Hernandez used insider knowledge to place his bets or that he compromised the integrity of either game. Hernandez himself reported his gambling activities to the club in July 2021, which led to his suspension in October of that year. He consequently missed the final few matches of the season. It was also disclosed that Hernandez underwent treatment for a gambling addiction and had faced concerns for his safety during this period.

Reinstatement and Conditions

Hernandez was reinstated in time for the start of the 2022 season in January. However, this reinstatement came with strict conditions: Hernandez was required to continue abstaining from gambling. The league, along with Sporting Kansas City, committed to providing the midfielder with necessary support and counseling. The club expressed a firm commitment to Hernandez’s well-being and supported his recovery process.

New Allegations and Current Investigation

Now, Hernandez finds himself under scrutiny once more as an investigation has been launched into a new alleged breach of gambling policies. During this period of investigation, Hernandez is prohibited from training or playing for his team. Notably, he had started two of the last three matches before being placed on administrative leave. The outcome of this investigation will be critical in determining Hernandez's future in MLS.

Gambling in Sports: A Growing Concern

Hernandez’s situation is not an isolated case, highlighting a growing concern of gambling within professional sports. For instance, in Major League Baseball (MLB), San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano received a lifetime ban for betting on his team's games. The NBA, too, made headlines when Toronto Raptors center Jontay Porter was banned for life in April for betting on games and sharing confidential information. This led to the arrest of four alleged co-conspirators. In soccer, Brentford striker Ivan Toney was banned for eight matches in May 2023 over betting allegations. Additionally, Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali was handed a 10-month ban in October 2023 for gambling on Italian league matches while he was playing in Italy.

Maintaining Integrity in Sports

These cases underscore the ongoing challenges professional sports leagues face in maintaining integrity. Strict regulations against gambling are put in place to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure fairness in the sport. The current investigation into Hernandez’s actions is thus crucial. Both the league and his club are closely monitoring the situation, emphasizing the importance of integrity and fair play as a top priority.

Hernandez's case serves as a sobering reminder of the severe consequences athletes face for breaching gambling policies. Beyond the individual impacts, such outcomes serve as precedents and warnings for other athletes. It highlights the sports world’s continuous efforts to strive for transparency, fairness, and integrity. All stakeholders are keenly observing how leagues manage these crucial issues, as the integrity of the sport remains of paramount importance.