Time For The NFL And Roger Goodell To Focus On The Real Issues

Let’s be real. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had some key things to say about the NFL and Marijuana on Mike and Mike recently that has many of us rolling our eyes and letting out an audible, “Really?” as we listen in disbelief. Twenty out of thirty-two total NFL teams play in states where medical marijuana is legal. A player can buy and use legally in his home state but will be penalized if the NFL finds it in his system. Sure, the league is within it’s rights to have “conditions of employment” for its players but if our reasoning is the health and well being of the players then these archaic policies should have been changed a long time ago. Let’s break down some of his statements.

“I think you still have to look at a lot of aspects of marijuana use,” Goodell said. “Is it something that can be negative to the health of our players?”

There have been zero deaths due to marijuana, zero. But there is currently a lawsuit by 1,800 former NFL players for “improper and deceptive prescription drug-distribution practices” that details how teams ignored federal drug laws and pumped players full of detrimental amounts of addictive opiate painkillers, a drug that is so highly addictive that it killed over 50,000 people in 2015 alone.

The lawsuit is full of horrible details of the league that is blatantly unconcerned about the wellbeing of its players. This can be found on page 103 of the document: “On November 22, 2003, the night before an away game in Baltimore, Maryland, trainer Ken Smith gave named Plaintiff Jerry Wunsch an Ambien. The next day, before the game, Coach Holmgren asked Mr. Wunsch if he could play, despite excruciating pain down the whole right side of his body, to which Mr. Wunsch replied “I can’t play, Coach. I can’t play today. It’s my first game. I just can’t do it.” Coach Holmgren then called Sam Ramsden, the Seahawks’ trainer, and asked “what can we do to help Mr. Wunsch play today.” Mr. Ramsden brought the doctors over, who gave him a 750 mg dose of Vicodin and Tylenol-Codeine #3, saying they would help, even though Mr. Wunsch was already taking anti-inflammatories as prescribed by his doctors. He played – feeling high – and after half time, the Medications wore off and he told anyone who would listen that he could not play anymore, but Mr. Ramsden, the head trainer, gave him another 750 mg of Vicodin on the field for the second half, telling Mr. Wunsch, “Don’t sue me personally for this.” Whoa.

Goodall is also the same man who suspended Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson for 10 games because he was using medical marijuana to treat himself after he had undergone two surgeries for Crohn’s disease. The NFL later reported from a source close to him that “He needs cannabis. You can’t take painkillers with the way his intestines are.” It would seem that if the health of his players was in his best interest this would not be an issue.

“Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say. It does have addictive nature. There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long term. All of those things have to be considered.”

First, if we are simply talking about the smoke aspect then why not also ban cigarettes? But okay, sure due to the carcinogenic effects smoking marijuana may not be the healthiest way to consume, which us why it is not the only option for those who need it. The cannabis industry is mindful of all of it’s potential consumers, from the children with epilepsy to the NFL football player who needs help with his pain and getting to sleep.

“And it’s not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players in that circumstance, but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren’t something that is going to be something that we’ll be held accountable for some years down the road.”

There it is. That “aha!” moment. This has nothing to do with the health of the players and everything to do with the league. Goodell is more concerned with being “held accountable” than actually listening to his players and coaches. We would hope that after years of players being affected (96 percent of football players brains tested and 76 percent of all players) with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—a degenerative disease believed to stem from repetitive brain injuries, the lawsuits, and those like Henderson who utilize medicinal marijuana and have no other alternative that Goodell and others would move their focus to penalizing players for more pressing matters like sexual assault and domestic violence, not a flower that is statistically far safer than any of the pain killers currently being given.

Luna Reyna

Luna Reyna believes in the power of journalistic activism and social responsibility. As a writer with DOPE, she tackles many social justice topics that often do not receive the coverage they deserve within the cannabis industry, as well as issues of inclusivity regarding race, gender, class and sexual orientation. Luna is also the Managing Editor for BARE Magazine, a quarterly lifestyle magazine whose motto is, "culture without censorship." She is also the founder of RIZE Entertainment, an art, entertainment and culture company that focuses solely on artists who challenge injustice and champion equality through their art.

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