Fantasy football cheating scandal, explained: Why National Fantasy Football Championship fired employee for rigging $150K contest

The fantasy football season is over for most NFL fans, but some contests give players a chance to put together a roster and win big in the postseason.

The National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) is one of those competitions, but the integrity of the contest is in question after a cheating scandal that resulted in the firing of an employee and the disqualification of a contestant.

The scandal doesn’t stretch beyond a pair of isolated infractions by the same employee, by all indications, but the violation has created uneasy feelings about the honesty of fantasy football contests in general.

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Here are the details about the National Fantasy Football Championship scandal.

Fantasy football cheating scandal, explained

An employee with access to internal controls of the NFFC swapped a player into a contestant’s lineup during both the wild-card round and divisional round of the NFL playoffs after games were already underway.

Packers RB Aaron Jones was swapped into the contestant’s lineup after he had already scored a touchdown against the Cowboys, replacing Dolphins RB Raheem Mostert, who played the previous night.

Another swap occurred the following week, when Chiefs TE Travis Kelce was inserted into the lineup in place of teammate Rashee Rice while Kansas City’s game was ongoing. The change occurred after Kelce had already scored a touchdown.

NFFC rosters are supposed to lock as soon as a player’s game starts, meaning both of those swaps circumvented the contest’s rules.

“We successfully revealed a post-deadline move in one of our NFFC Post-Season Hold ‘Em contests that was detected and quickly confirmed,” the contest announced Wednesday, adding that its parent company, SportsHub, was able to take “immediate action.” The employee, who has not been identified, was fired, and the contestant who benefited from the swap was banned.

The NFFC credited “reporting by a public source” for revealing the infraction. That source was members of the “Ship Chasing” podcast, who figured out that something was amiss and alerted the contest about the potential violation.

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One member of the podcast said he’s concerned the incident will “spread the seeds of distrust.” 

“I think this is incredibly damaging,” Pete Overzet told ESPN, adding that the swaps might not have been noticeable for someone who isn’t “intimately familiar” with the competition.

The contest will continue despite the violation, which the NFFC says has been fully addressed now that both individuals were removed.

What is the National Fantasy Football Championship?

The National Fantasy Football Championship oversees the NFFC Post-Season Hold ‘Em Contest, a playoff contest that gives fantasy football players a chance to compete after the regular season has ended.

The competition is limited to the 14 NFL playoff teams, with contestants able to pick a player from each team in the first round and more flexibility added in the following rounds. The contest covers the entirety of the playoffs, but lineups can be adjusted as teams get eliminated. 

The stakes are quite high, which is one reason why the scandal has rocked the fantasy football world. Over 1,500 contestants entered the fray. There’s a $150,000 prize on the line for the winner. Each contestant paid a $200 entry fee to enter the contest.

Every contestant’s odds went up every so slightly with the disqualification, but an employee rearranging a player’s roster behind the scenes will undoubtedly leave some feeling uncertain about the integrity of the competition. 

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