Bernie Kosar Lawsuit Alleges Ohio Sports Bet Cost Him $200K Browns Radio Job

Written By Mike Breen on June 18, 2024
Bernie Kosar Sports Bet Lawsuit

Cleveland sports legend Bernie Kosar is suing an Ohio digital media company over an NFL bet that he says cost him his job working on Browns radio broadcasts.

In the lawsuit filed this spring in Cuyahoga County, Kosar claims that the Ohio sports podcast company BIGPLAY forced him to use his own money to place a $19,000 bet on the Browns through Tipico Sportsbook, a BIGPLAY sponsor. 

Kosar was also employed by BIGPLAY to host “The Bernie Kosar Show With Hanford Dixon” podcast and make public appearances. The lawsuit further alleges that company co-owner Kendall Myles harassed Kosar and that BIGPLAY wrongfully terminated the former Brown QB’s contract.

According to the suit, Kosar is seeking $850,000 in actual damages from BIGPLAY, as well as approximately $25,000 in attorney’s fees and an unspecified amount of additional punitive damages. 

Kosar bet $19,000 on the Browns through Tipico Sportsbook

Kosar placed his bet at midnight on New Year’s Eve at the start of 2023 — the same time that Ohio sports betting officially launched in the Buckeye State. 

He bet $19,000 (a reference to his jersey number 19) on the Browns to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 8 in their 2022-2023 regular-season finale (the Browns ultimately lost). The wager was heavily promoted by BIGPLAY and on Kosar’s own social media channels. Tipico also promoted the bet with promo offers like a “Bernie Kosar Boost” on its sports betting app. 

On the Jan. 2, 2023 episode of “The Bernie Kosar Show,” Kosar discussed placing the bet. During the program, colleagues declared it the first legal sports bet in Ohio. Kosar’s bet was placed at midnight, while fellow Ohio sports legend Pete Rose made a wager at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1 at Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati. Hard Rock promoted Rose’s bet as the first legal Ohio sports wager.

Kosar alleges that BIGPLAY’s owners told him at a Dec. 31, 2022 charity event that he would have to wager his own money for the Browns bet. But, according to the lawsuit, Kosar’s contract with BIGPLAY stated that the former athlete would “not be liable, nor responsible, for the amount of the wager nor … entitled to any winnings that may occur as a result of the wager.”

Kosar terminated from Browns radio job after bet

Following the Tipico bet, Kosar was removed from the Browns pregame radio broadcast ahead of that Jan. 8 finale. The team issued a statement at the time saying that the wager violated NFL rules against league personnel placing bets on NFL games. 

In the immediate aftermath, Kosar apologized for placing the bet. He said that if it had won, he intended to donate the proceeds to charity. He also said that since he was an independent contractor in his position with Browns Radio and not technically an employee of the NFL, he didn’t think the bet violated league rules. 

But soon after the Jan. 8 game, Kosar found himself relieved of his duties on the Cleveland Browns Radio Network. Until then, the former athlete received pay for appearances on the “Cleveland Browns Daily” and “Cleveland Browns Kickoff Show” programs. 

Kosar’s lawsuit claims the Browns radio job was worth $200,000. 

Lawsuit also accuses BIGPLAY of wrongful termination

BIGPLAY, which calls itself “the fastest growing sports media company in America,” produces video and audio podcasts about various Ohio sports. Hosts include former Ohio athletes like ex-Browns wide receiver Josh Cribbs and onetime Cavs shooting guard Daniel Gibson, as well as social media influencers and other sports experts. BIGPLAY programs can be found on YouTube and various podcast platforms and have appeared on Bally Sports Great Lakes. A BIGPLAY Roku app is scheduled to launch this summer, according to the company’s website.

Kosar’s lawsuit states that his contract with BIGPLAY required him to host his “Bernie Kosar Show” monthly. He must also make public promotional appearances during the NFL offseason. The suit says the company began requiring appearances during the NFL season, which was against the initial agreement.

Kosar claims that when he met with Myles to discuss why he couldn’t do appearances in-season, Myles was “yelling at him so closely, he was spitting in his face, while threatening him,” according to the complaint.

After the exchange, Kosar claims BIGPLAY informed Kosar of his terminated agreement. The lawsuit says the company owed Kosar around $150,000 at the time of his firing.

An attorney for BIGPLAY issued a statement saying:

“The claims of wrongdoing in the complaint filed by Mr. Kosar are false, and we look forward to the opportunity to defend our clients in court.”

Photo by Dreamstime / PlayOhio
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Mike Breen

Mike Breen covers Ohio’s budding sports betting industry for PlayOhio, focusing on online sportsbooks and the state’s responsible gambling initiatives. He has over two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture in Ohio.

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