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Felipe Hernandez suspended for gambling for the remainder of the year

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Hernandez came to SKC concerned for his safety due to his gambling debts

Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City Homegrown midfielder has been suspended without for pay the remainder of the season for violating MLS gambling integrity rules and standards of conduct.

Hernandez came to SKC manager Peter Vermes on July 5th. Vermes and the league took immediate steps to make sure Hernandez was safe. The league and law enforcement opened investigations.

SKC and MLS worked to quickly find treatment for Hernandez, and he was on his way before the end of the week. That treatment was several weeks, and he has ongoing steps he needs to take. Those steps will be reviewed before he can be reinstated. He will be eligible for reinstatement on January 1, 2022.

Hernandez, 23, had a goal and two assists in six games (four starts) this season and was making a strong bid for more playing time. He signed as a Homegrown in 2019 and made club history as the first player to progress from an academy affiliate, to SKC’s academy, to the USL Championship’s Swope Park Rangers and then to the senior team.

When asked if he would welcome Hernandez back, Vermes responded, “If Felipe is following his therapy and all the things he needs to do, I would tell you from my perspective, one hundred percent.”

“Coming forward took a lot of courage,” Vermes stated. “He is smart enough to realize he should not be gambling but he still came forward. That’s not an easy thing to do.”

“I truly believe he wanted to do the right thing and I think he is working hard to get himself on the right track,” Vermes added.

Vermes also praised the culture of his team and how supportive they have been of Hernandez.

From the press release:

Major League Soccer has suspended Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Hernandez without pay for the remainder of 2021 due to violations of the league’s gambling integrity rules and standards of conduct. Hernandez engaged in extensive and unlawful sports gambling while a member of Sporting Kansas City that included placing wagers on two MLS matches, in direct contravention of league rules.

Major League Soccer initiated an investigation on July 5, 2021, after Hernandez disclosed to Sporting Kansas City that he was concerned about his personal safety due to his gambling debts. MLS and Sporting Kansas City immediately took steps to refer the matter to law enforcement and ensure that Hernandez received necessary support and counseling. MLS engaged the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP (Paul, Weis) to conduct an independent investigation. Hernandez has been suspended since July 2021 pending completion of the MLS and law enforcement investigations, both of which have now concluded. Paul, Weiss, in cooperation with law enforcement, undertook an extensive review, including conducting witness interviews, examining data from online gambling accounts and reviewing analyses of betting activity on certain MLS matches. Based on that review, Paul, Weiss has made the following findings:

  • Hernandez engaged in extensive and unlawful sports gambling while a member of Sporting Kansas City.
  • Hernandez placed online bets on two MLS matches while a member of Sporting Kansas City. Sporting Kansas City was not a participant in either of those matches.
  • No evidence was found that Hernandez possessed confidential or otherwise non-public information concerning those two MLS matches.
  • No evidence was found that Hernandez ever bet on an MLS match involving his own team.
  • No evidence was found that the integrity of any MLS match was impacted by the sports gambling activities under investigation.
  • No evidence was found of any other gambling by MLS players on MLS matches.

Hernandez cooperated fully with the league’s investigation and will be eligible for reinstatement on January 1, 2022 on application to the Commissioner, who will consider Hernandez’s compliance based on certain directives, including ongoing counseling.

If credible new information concerning this matter comes to Major League Soccer’s attention, the league reserves the right to revisit this investigation and the resulting discipline.

The integrity of our game and safety of our players is MLS’ top priority. MLS would like to thank law enforcement, Sporting Kansas City, and the MLS Players Association for their cooperation and assistance in this matter.

Statement on twitter from Hernandez: