Have you seen claims online that NFL games are rigged? It’s a conspiracy theory that’s gone viral on social media in recent months. But you may be surprised to learn that some of the people spreading this idea appear to be profiting from the baseless claim.
“These games are purely entertainment and the NFL gets every matchup they want. Players don’t have a choice, they’re athletic actors making millions keeping secrets,” one video that’s gone viral on X this week claims.
The video shows various plays from the recent game between the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers and suggests there’s something sketchy about what viewers are seeing. The video even claims that “Vegas sends the script and the players read and rehearse it all week,” apparently suggesting some unseen cartel of shadowy figures in Las Vegas is actually dictating the winners to the NFL.
But anyone who’s watched professional football for more than 10 minutes knows there’s nothing suspicious about some missed tackles and fumbles. That’s just what makes the game interesting and has been going on for decades.
A similar video on TikTok has become popular using the same AI-generated narration style and clips from the January 21 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills. The Bills missed a field goal during that playoff game, losing them the game. But that missed field goal wasn’t so simple, according to the conspiracy theorists.
“Wind wasn’t a factor all game and wind won’t move a ball like that. Oh, but magnetics will,” the TikTok video claims without providing any evidence for the extraordinary claim.
Who’s actually spreading this conspiracy theory? In the case of these two videos, it’s a website that sells subscriptions to “insider” information about sports betting. The website, which has the name The Spread Seer, doesn’t have any contact information and provides no transparency about who might be behind it. If anyone wants to subscribe for tips, it’s $50 per month, and the entire set-up has countless red flags.
“We believe that behind every game, there’s a hidden script waiting to be deciphered. If you’ve ever felt like there’s more to sports than meets the eye, you’re not alone. Get ready to elevate your game and make strategic bets based on these scripted games,” the website reads.
Again, there’s absolutely no information about who runs the website or precisely what kind of information they might provide. The site uses Gumroad as a payments processor and has no promises about what you’ll actually receive for your $50.
Needless to say, I highly recommend you don’t give this website money. But if you want to see what it looks like, I’ve created an archive page with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. It’s a simple one-page website that allows people to input their credit card information.
There are plenty of scams online, with people trying to extract money from unsuspecting social media users, so it’s really no surprise that someone is trying to capitalize on the conspiracy theory that NFL games are fixed. The theory has become more popular as sports betting has become legalized in the U.S. and attention to Travis Kelce has been heightened since he started dating Taylor Swift. Both Kelce and Swift have become lightning rods for controversy in the culture wars, with Kelce promoting covid-19 vaccinations and Swift endorsing Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
But there’s no evidence that any NFL players or coaches are fixing games. Just about every starting player on a given team would need to be involved to intentionally lose a game. And while some people do make that exceptional claim online, there’s simply no evidence that any NFL game has been rigged. There are plenty of bad calls from referees and other weird things that happen which can lead people to believe the NFL is fixed. But the level of collusion necessary to pull off a rigged game would be incredibly complex.
Match-fixing is a very real thing that happens in sports all around the world. But fixing a professional football game would be an enormous undertaking and there’s no evidence NFL games are scripted in any way—beyond the Super Bowl Halftime Show, of course.