Three Players Have Received Lifetime Bans in the NFL

Published on June 7th, 2022 4:35 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

Lifetime bans in American football.  How many were there and when did they occur? Has a NFL player ever received a lifetime ban?

There have been plenty of "indefinite" NFL bans, with some of the players never being reinstated by the league (Rae Carruth, for instance). Michael Vick is an example of a player that was suspended indefinitely but ultimately returned after a long absence from the league.

There have been numerous season-long bans (Donte Stallworth, Adam Jones, etc), and many partial season suspensions.


Since the beginning of the NFL, just three players - Art Folz, Frank Filchock and Merle Hapes - have received lifetime bans from the league.

Art Folz was reinstated one year later, though Filchock and Hapes would never escape their lifetime bans.

Let's look at the three different lifetime bans and why they occurred:

1. Art Folz.

This story is absolutely bizarre.

Back in 1925, the winner of the NFL was the team that finished at the top of the regular season standings.

Art Folz and the Chicago Cardinals were in a battle with the Pottsville Maroons for the title.

Back in 1925, NFL teams could schedule extra games to help pad their records. The Chicago Cardinals booked two such games against easy opponents - the Milwaukee Badgers and Hammond Pros.

Back then, there was no television and hardly anybody attended games.

Now, Folz really wanted to stack the deck for his team, so he convinced four high school students to join the Badgers for the game against the Cardinals. These students played under assumed names. (obviously the NFL has changed a great deal since 1925).

The Cardinals destroyed the Badgers by a score of 58-0.

When the NFL learned what Folz had done, they banned him from the league, though they would remove the lifetime ban a year later.

2. Frank Filchock, Merle Hapes.

Both Filchock and Hapes were banned for life following a bribery scandal that cast a shadow over the game.

Both men were accused of taking bribes to fix the Championship game in 1946 from a well-known gambler named Alvin Paris.

Both men played for the Giants and were offered significant sums of money so that the Bears could win by at least 10 points.

During a later trial, both Filchock and Hapes would deny receiving any money for the bribery offer.

During the trial it was revealed that Paris had bet on the Giants to win their last regular season game, and that both Filchock and Hapes had accepted the payouts that Paris subsequently offered them (he won his bet).

The Commissioner of the league at the time ended up suspending the two players for life, accusing them of being guilty of "actions detrimental to the welfare of the National Football League".

Neither of these two bans would ever be rescinded.

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