Steelers' James Harrison, NFL may square off again
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison could be squaring off against the NFL again this offseason because of his participation in an arm wrestling event this past weekend in Las Vegas.
Harrison and teammates Arthur Moats and center Maurkice Pouncey were among 32 NFL players appearing at the inaugural Pro Football Arm Wrestling Championships, an event in apparent violation of the NFL's gambling policy.
The event was held at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, and the league's gambling policy prohibits players from making promotional appearances at casinos or other gambling-related establishments.
According to an industry source, Harrison, Moats and Pouncey could be subject to a fine but would not face suspension for their involvement in the event.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league "just became aware of the event and will look into it further."
The Steelers and Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, each declined comment.
Harrison was investigated but cleared by the NFL in 2016 after an Al-Jazeera documentary alleged he was prescribed performance enhancing drugs. And he has clashed with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over the $150,000 in fines Harrison has received during his career because of questionable hits.
Harrison was billed as a host and co-coach for the event, along with retired NFL running back Marshawn Lynch. Former Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley and former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Bart Scott, a CBS NFL analyst, also were listed as hosts.
Harrison posted several pictures on his verified Instagram account, including one with mixed martial arts fighter Tito Ortiz and another with professional arm wrestler Travis Bagent in which Harrison wrote, "Lockin up with the Champ!"
Although the NFL approved relocation of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas two weeks ago, Goodell said the league's gambling policy would remain unchanged.
"It wasn't necessary and the Raiders didn't ask us to do that," Goodell said at the NFL annual meeting in March. "We don't see changing our current policies."
USA Today, which first reported the story, was told by Joe Lockhart, the NFL's executive vice president for communications and publics affairs, that pre-approval was not sought by the event's operator, Encinal Entertainment, a California-based company.
"Had we been asked in advance if this was acceptable, we would have indicated that it was in direct violation of the gambling policy," Lockhart said.
However, Encinal Entertainment official Alan Brickman said his organization did seek pre-approval from the NFL before putting on the arm wrestling competition. He told USA Today that he sought pre-approval in January, engaging with two league departments in an attempt to partner with the NFL.
Brickman said guidelines were suggested by the NFL. No gambling-related activity or alcohol was to be shown during the broadcast. Brickman told USA Today that power was turned off to gambling machines in the vicinity of the event.
CBS is scheduled to televise the arm wrestling event May 27-28 and June 3.
Organizers said half of the $100,000 in first-place money will go to charity.