The game itself has become greater than anyone could have predicted 50 years ago. It has hundreds of millions of fans, including those in other countries. More money is generated by professional football than any other sport. However, many of the league’s policies are antiquated, including the subject of marijuana and the NFL.
There is an unofficial estimate that although marijuana is banned by the league, 50 percent of players use it; not for recreational use; they use it for pain.
During each season all players are continually in certain stages of pain. Although they claim not feel pain at the instant of contact, they feel it both on the sidelines and off of the field of play.
Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the use of marijuana for any purpose. 30 states have legalized it for medicinal purposes only. The NFL claims that there is no proof that its use is beneficial in the management of pain.
A week ago a minor concession was made by the League Office and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Although marijuana will remain an illegal substance if used by members of the NFL, the number of test required has increased, and the punishment will become less harsh. Some would say that it’s a step in the right direction, when in reality it is being managed in the same manner as the issue of domestic violence; all words and no action.
The fact is that the public perception of marijuana use has changed. The NFL should move forward and take a stand for the well-being of the players. The side effects are no more damaging than those of alcohol, prescribed medications, and even some over-the-counter drugs.
The old guard makes the valid claim that ‘rules are rules.’ There is definitely truth in that statement. However when logic is removed from decision making, rules become senseless. There exists no standard for punishment. Roger Goodell arbitrarily hands down penalties. The NFLPA, National Football League Players Association, needs a more aggressive and assertive leadership. Goodell’s inconsistency causes damage to a player’s reputation and to their wallets. It is simply logical that standards must be established and agreed upon by the players.
When Goodell established the league’s drug policy it was politically motivated. He was hired by the owners to accomplish one thing, and one thing only; increase revenue. That has been accomplished and occasionally to the detriment of those who actually play the game. During those early days marijuana was included in the ineffective ‘war on drugs.’
Anyone who has ever played sports at a competitive level has experienced injury and pain; it’s inevitable. We use heat, cold, aspirin, Tylenol, whatever will help relieve the ache. If we love the sport, we will participate again as soon as we are physically capable; often ignoring the lingering pain.
It was once said that ‘basketball is a contact sport; football is a collision sport.’ The very nature of football makes it impossible to avoid injuries large or small. NFL players are compensated well financially for their actions on the field; and they should be. And they will get injured throughout the season, and often play with that injury. It seems senseless to ask them to suffer when they are off of the field when pain relief is available.
By James Turnage