Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Hernandez was handed a season-long unpaid suspension on Friday after Major League Soccer found he violated its gambing integrity rules. MLS launched an independent investigation into Hernandez in July, concluding that he engaged in "extensive and unlawful sports gambling."
According to the league's investigation, Hernandez bet on two MLS matches with neither featuring Sporting KC. The league also concluded Hernandez did not have "confidential or otherwise non-public information concerning those two MLS matches" and never compromised an MLS match.
"The integrity of our game and safety of our players is MLS' top priority," the league wrote in a statement. "MLS would like to thank law enforcement, Sporting Kansas City, and the MLS Players Association for their cooperation and assistance in this matter."
Hernandez, a 23-year-old from Colombia, announced on Twitter he was seeking help for his "gambling addiction."
"This summer, I stepped away from soccer -- the game that means so much to me -- and began receiving treatment for a gambling addiction," wrote Hernandez, who recorded a goal and two assists in six matches this season. "Over the last several months, I have been able to reassess, take responsibility for my actions and get the proper care for something that has greatly affected me."
Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said Hernandez shared his gambling problems with the team on July 5, with the player adding that his debts could potentially risk his personal safety. As of Friday's press conference, Vermes says he's unaware of whether Hernandez paid those debts.
Hernandez isn't the only U.S. professional athlete to gamble on their own league. The NFL found then-Arizona Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw bet on games in 2019, and San Jose Sharks right winger Evander Kane faced allegations of throwing his own games for gambling purposes. Kane, though, was cleared of those allegations.
MLS announced Hernandez "cooperated fully" with its investigation, allowing him to apply for reinstatement on Jan. 1, 2022.