By Eric Charbonnet @ECHARB10
Week one of the NFL season has come and gone and with it, a lot of memorable finishes. Overshadowing the Chiefs historic comeback and the thrillers in both New Orleans and Indianapolis were not the players on the field, but rather the ones missing from it.
Most noticeably, for casual fans, the Steelers were without All-World running back Le’veon Bell and freakish wide receiver Martavis Bryant.
Both were suspended for the Monday night game against the ‘Skins and will be suspended for three and fifteen more games respectively. What was it that they “did” to receive such punishments? They smoked marijuana.
Let’s just stop and let that soak in for a minute. Not soaking in fast enough? Maybe some added context will help.
Sheldon Richardson, the stalwart defensive end for the Jets, was suspended for the season opener.
One game, for driving faster than 130 miles an hour while evading police officers with his twelve year old cousin in the backseat, a loaded semi-automatic handgun, and a cloud of marijuana smoke billowing out of the windows that was apparently caused by the other passengers in the Bentley.
That warranted one unpaid day off of work.
Everyone stands somewhere on the fence when it comes to marijuana these days, but I think we can all admit that what transpired with Richardson and earned him a single game suspension is significantly worse than smoking a few joints.
There has long been two main parties on the battlefield when it comes to the “Devil’s Lettuce”.
There are those who think it can lead you to doing crystal meth and being a degenerate and then there are those just like the kid you knew in high school who smelled bad in every class and drew pictures of pot leaves all over his homework.
Could there be another party though? One who actually believes that marijuana has vast medicinal purposes that can replace the less-than-safe practices that have run rampant through NFL locker rooms for the last twenty plus years.
Toradol and opioids, along with cortisone shots that numb the pain initially but make things hurt twice as bad if not more the next day, have many adverse side effects.
Marijuana does not.
There’s no need for needles, no threat to your gastrointestinal tract or liver lining, just a social and stigma that makes one of the safest pain killing substances around seem as if its as horrible as the other drugs tested for by the NFL.
Ask your high school brother or your fifty-year-old uncle, MDMA and PCP are in a whole different class than pot yet the league tests for it and treats it the same.
Your second offense for smoking pot will score you the same punishment as the second time you get caught dropping acid or shooting heroin.
In fact, Le’veon wasn’t even caught a second time; he failed to show up for a drug test the morning after knee surgery, which according to the NFL is the same as failing it.
Because he was caught one single time in 2014, he was considered a second time offender even without actually being caught and having served his punishment for the initial offense. Simply put, the prospect of him potentially smoking got him a month off from work.
The problem with these suspensions though, at least the ones for the abuse of marijuana, is that its hard to argue that those suspended weren’t using the weed medicinally, but strictly recreational.
This I understand not being allowed, but if this is going to be the case, the NFL should at least treat marijuana like it does amphetamines and allow players with medical clearance from a licensed professional to use it.
NFL players are in the public eye and therefore should strive to be as close to perfect as impossibly possible, but leaving them without options isn’t the answer either.
The allowance of marijuana smoking and other use of cannabinoids in the NFL needs to be discussed. The NFL’s history of turning a blind eye can’t continue. By refusing to acknowledge the problems toradol and opioids pose, locker rooms, NFL owners and the commissioner are advocating for the use of potentially dangerous substances.
Not to say that something needs to be done in the next month or this season, but the stigma surrounding marijuana in professional athletics needs to evolve with the changing perception of marijuana in the social plane.