It's time for the No Fun League to get out of the pot-policing business
All this reefer madness isn't doing the league -- or its players -- any good
Maybe Aldon Smith really was misguided enough to post that video on social media and believe no one would ever find out, as he seems to suggest. Maybe Le'Veon Bell was shortsighted enough to let his frustration with the draconian nature of the NFL's pot policing policies drive him to a point where he skipped multiple drug tests, as sources have told me and plenty of others.
If so, that's regrettable and foolish on both of their parts.
But it's also all so silly how far down this pot rabbit hole we've gone. The entire charade and grand dance players must do when it comes to many NFL players' drug of choice -- one legally embraced by more and more municipalities -- is getting old. Yet the suits at Park Avenue seem to be oblivious to the fatigue so many fans are feeling about the continued reefer madness.
Every day, it's something new, whether it's policing what Smith is talking about on or off camera or where Bell shows up on any given day or whom Josh Gordon may be gallivanting around with at a time he had to show up back in New York City to discuss his actions with Roger Goodell.
Enough. I'm over it. I'm sick of it. All of it.
Yes, it was collectively bargained between the league and the NFLPA. Yes, all of this is well within the league's purview. But is it really good for the NFL when fans have to obsess over every Facebook post or periscope video or night on the town that any of their pot-smoking star players might explore?
I, personally, have had enough. Enough of having to parse out every word that is said or not said. Enough of having to figure out who bought the bong-mask and who wore it. Enough of the watered-down samples or suspicious samples. Enough of the Whizinator.
Please. I've dropped my specimen cup and I'm waving the white flag. Spare us all.
NFL, get out of the pot-policing business. ASAP.
You want an 18-game schedule, NFL owners? A developmental league? A London franchise?
Well, let's engage in some meaningful horse trading with the NFLPA about whatever other lingering issues you want to figure out and dangle the kilo-sized carrot of no longer testing for pot as a way to get things done. Yeah, this runs counter to Goodell's Law and Order commissionership, so keep him out of the process if you have to. Let Adolpho Birch or Jeff Pash be the point-man and take all the hits that may come with it. Make it seem like it was this massive concession on the league's part, but was done in order to bolster player safety and in exchange for other trade-offs the NFL desired. Whatever it takes.
But get the heck out of these guys' living rooms, or dens, or hermitically-sealed smoke rooms.
Go ahead and work to stiffen your domestic violence policies as part of the trade-off. Ratchet up your stance on players involved in any incident involving gun violence or potential gun violence. And stop testing for pot unless a player is caught in an illegal situation in which the drug in question is involved. (Quick PSA to all NFL players -- never, ever, ever, videotape yourself taking drugs or letting someone videotape you taking drugs. Please. Is that too much to ask?)
Let's make that distinction clear: If a player gets caught smoking marijuana in an area where it is illegal or gets caught in a sting with a massive amount of it being shipped to his residence or he is selling the drug or supplying the drug or breaking any state or federal drug law, then by all means I condone punishment and future testing. But in my opinion, that should be the primary entry way into the substance abuse program when it comes to pot. It shouldn't be a test at the NFL Draft Combine that can begin a vicious cycle for the young player and his eventual employer. It's this kind of pot policing that derails careers and costs teams games, and does so at a very steep price which in the end doesn't help the player or change much for the positive.
Newsflash: A lot of NFL players smoke pot. And a lot of NBA players do, too. But you aren't constantly hearing about NBA players missing a quarter of their season here or being dragged to the principal's office there because of pot minutiae. And for good reason. That's smart on the NBA's behalf. Want to make it seem like you still care about policing pot, but you really don't? Have your cake and eat it too? Then limit the number of players tested each season to the same number that are tested for HGH. There you go. Crisis over.
It's also makes too much sense, given what NFL players put their minds and bodies through to play this game which so greatly benefits the owners. Especially given ongoing research about marijuana and pain relief and some of its medicinal benefits, plus the fact it appears to be far less an evil than a potent drug like, oh, say, Toradol. There is no better time to change than the present.
Rather than scorn or banish someone like Eugene Monroe, who has been very vocal about the nexus of football and pot for pain relief prior to his abrupt retirement, why not call him to the commish's office for a candid and meaningful discussion, rather than the punitive nature of most of these meetings? It's easy to rip Monroe now, but this guy went to Virginia. He is no dummy. And this might be the perfect time to start to truly build a bridge with players on this issue.
Want to further make amends for the decades of how the concussion issue has been handled? Want to make players feel like you really are willing to meet them halfway and explore anything necessary to ease their pain? Don't just fire controversial medical advisor Elliot Pellman years later than you should have. Put big bucks into independent research already being conducted that evaluates how pot might help those who have experienced significant brain trauma.
It's time. That's abundantly clear between analyzing the audio of Smith's voice on this damn Periscope video and gathering forensic evidence as to whether or not he did have a blunt with him in the video. On the grand scale of all of the gun and DUI arrests, we're really going to obsess over a video where Smith if talking about blazing? Really? This is what it comes down to?
Perhaps the NFL's DEA gang could spend some time reading the great work The Denver Post has done examining why so many players turn to pot for relief. Perhaps they could even get behind some of the work being done in this regard, as reported by that newspaper:
Former Broncos tight end Jeb Putzier consumes Charlotte's Web, a hemp extract produced by Colorado's CW Botanicals that is high in cannabidiol (CBD) and contains only trace levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in cannabis that gets users high. Among its many benefits, CBD is found to relieve neuropathic pain and reduce inflammation. Former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer and current offensive tackle Eugene Monroe have backed research studies of CBD with the hope the NFL will allow active players to use it as a safer alternative pain reliever than opioids.
It's really, really easy to shame and ostracize and laugh at these young men who get caught in these situations, some of them for actions they did while still in college, like Laremy Tunsil. And it's just as easy to have a policy in place that serves to continue to perpetuate those outcomes. And, don't get me wrong, for someone like Smith to be caught in this situation after all he as been through in a relatively short period of time speaks to some significant issues. But smoking pot, to me, is pretty far down his paradigm of problems.
Is there anyone who thinks this is good for football? I mean, aside from a short-sighted fan, whose team plays the Steelers, say, in Week 3, and who is hoping that week Bell is still suspended. What are we really accomplishing?
I understand the need for players to follow the rules, but shouldn't the punishments fit the crimes? What if more states keep legalizing and what if more municipalities continue to reap the financial rewards from it? What if we just admit this is a personal choice a good many of these athletes are going to make as a counter-punch to all of the blows to the head they are contractually obligated to take?
To continue to do the same things and expect different results is the definition of insanity, and in a sport where careers are so short and the risks are so high, to make some sort of morality stance on a leisure activity and pain relief pursuit such as this seems every bit as foolish to me as some of the social media gaffes these players make. Let's render the entire exercise moot.
It won't end all of these sagas, as you'll recall it was Bell's run-in with police with pot in the car that landed him in the substance abuse policy in the first place. And as I said, I would certainly still keep that aspect of the policy in place. And even for players in the program, I would hope that over time that independent psychological evaluations would be the prevailing guide for punishment/treatment moving forward --more so than the current broad spectrum based on number of failed or missed tests.
Hopefully, no longer testing for pot unless a player finds his way into the program for something other than a failed test would eliminate much of the "gotcha" element from this process. Hopefully, it would aid teams through the already difficult enough draft-evaluation process. I'm sure execs would love to avoid factoring in the risk of suspension as high for smoking an occasional joint -- something I'd wager my salary a fair number of owners, execs and coaches have done or still do from time to time. Hopefully, something changes in the next year. But given the state of affairs between the NFL and NFLPA, well, let's just say I'm not holding my breath.
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