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In Latest Gambling Scandal, Some See Glimpse of Sports’ Future

Bill Bradley, the basketball Hall of Famer and former United States senator known as a staunch opponent of legalized sports betting, was speaking about the topic back in January. But he might as well have been predicting the future.

“Well there hasn’t been a scandal, yet,” he said, discussing how professional sports has become ever more entwined with the gambling industry in recent years. “So the worst has been avoided, but all of the conditions are there for the untoward to occur.”

On Wednesday, the National Basketball Association confirmed the untoward had occurred, issuing a lifetime ban to Jontay Porter, a seldom-used backup forward for the Toronto Raptors. The league said Mr. Porter wagered money on his own team to lose, pretended to be hurt for betting purposes and shared confidential information with gamblers.

“There is nothing more important than protecting the integrity of N.B.A. competition for our fans, our teams and everyone associated with our sport,” Adam Silver, the league’s commissioner, said in announcing Porter’s punishment.

There are those who worry that Porter is just the tip of the iceberg across American sports, and that unless everyone — leagues, players, unions, politicians, betting companies — gets together to prevent further betting scandals, the very viability of professional sports is at risk. The Porter case was all the more unsettling because it came just weeks after baseball’s biggest star, Shohei Ohtani, was connected to a gambling scandal when his longtime interpreter was accused of stealing millions of dollars from him to pay an illegal bookmaker.

“When sports lose the perception that they’re honest, their sport dies,” said Fay Vincent, the former Major League Baseball commissioner who played a key role in barring Pete Rose, the career hits leader, from the sport for life in the 1980s because he bet on his own team’s games.

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