Two years ago, Boston.com reporter Albert Breer quoted an unnamed NFL coach that estimated that at least one-third of the players on NFL draft boards had a history of marijuana use. Think that’s bad? Consider the rest of the American public.
Depending on the poll, between 40-60 percent of (honest) Americans have tried marijuana as a recreational drug. A 2011 Gallup Poll says 50 percent of Americans favor legalization of pot. Yet we condemn athletes that tried (or still use) marijuana.
The best argument for condemnation of these athletes is logical: Marijuana is illegal. If an athlete has the goal to take his talents to the professional level, he has to be incredibly foolish to try or continuously smoke pot when he knows he’s going to be tested.
I agree. How does anyone risk his career, family, and freedom to engage in illegal activity? Why don’t we ask that question about the 40-60 percent of Americans that smoke pot but they aren’t professional athletes and instead have “important” job titles like stockbroker, plumber, accountant, teacher, manager, executive, and lawyer? Pot smokers with spouses, children, mortgages, and car loans. Tokers with likely more to lose than these young NFL players even if they do get to keep their jobs and earn a slap on the wrist for an initial offense.
How about a little more stupidity? According to the American Census Bureau, nearly 13 percent of Americans admit to cheating on their taxes? Did you know that 20 percent of Americans have admitted to drinking and driving? A survey by AAA just four years ago found that 71 percent of Americans text and drive.
As someone hit three different times by three different cellphone-preoccupied drivers in less than a month within five miles of my home, I can say that the idiot factor of Orson Charles getting in a car while impaired by alcohol is no different than a coed impaired by a cellphone-fueled, gossip session while behind the wheel of a Hope Scholarship-funded SUV. The only difference is that Charles was punished and labeled an idiot while “Daddy’s little girl,” earned a ticket and slightly higher insurance rates.
Josh Gordon failed three drug tests – two with Baylor and one with Utah. All three were allegedly pot-related. He was suspended from practices once and kicked off a team with the best big-play quarterback in college football. Gordon may have just signed a four-year $5.3 million deal with Cleveland with $3.8 million of it in guaranteed money. However, Michael Floyd’s four-year deal included $10 million in guaranteed money.
True, Gordon is still earning millions despite his transgressions. Ask Charles Rogers where his money is. Ask Warren Sapp about his bankruptcy. Although frequently intertwined, drug use and financial irresponsibility aren’t always related issues.
Despite public opinion, financial acumen is a learned skill. While many of us were learning how to be smart with money, entertainers, and athletes were spending those hours learning skills we only dream about. It also makes them even more vulnerable to predators disguised as financial planners, managers, and counselors.
I have worked with multiple people in the past 15-20 years with alcohol or drug-related offenses. Some with multiple offenses while in college. They all did incredibly foolish things and they all paid a price. Some grew up and learned how to become trusted professionals in their respective fields. Some continued to make mistakes and lost even more than a job opportunity or a driver’s license.
Josh Gordon was honest about his marijuana use and he tested clean before the Browns selected him this week in the Supplemental Draft. Although illegal, there’s plenty of evidence that the NFL considers pot a recreational drug on the level of beer. The NFL will never say this because it’s horrible PR. However, its actions speak much louder when you look at a partial list of NFL players that have tested positive for marijuana at some point before or during their NFL careers.Some of them have been significant components of the NFL’s marketing efforts.
- Percy Harvin (Combine)
- Michael Vick (NFL)
- Mike Adams (Combine)
- Justin Houston (Combine)
- Aaron Hernandez (multiple failed drug tests in college, but clean at the Combine and open about it)
- Anthony McCoy (College)
- Jayron Hoseley (Combine)
- Jamarr Jarrett (Combine)
- Ricky Williams (Multiple times)
- DeSean Jackson (College)
- Tom Zbikowski (NFL)
- Nick Fairley (Combine)
- Mikel Leshoure (Multiple times)
- Fred Davis (Multiple times)
- Trent Williams (NFL)
- Calvin Johnson (College)
- Amobi Okoye
- Randy Moss
- Warren Sapp (Combine)
Clearly NFL owners, general managers, and coaches only care if pot use is getting in the way of doing the job. Considering that a significant percentage of our society is working and toking on a recreational basis, Gordon’s behavior was immature but hardly as troublesome as it might appear. Barring destructive behavior we see with alcohol, sex, or prescription drugs, pot use will be much ado about nothing within the next 25 years.
In fact, I believe that by the time many of you reading this become grandparents of college-age kids, the sports-watching culture will be laughing about a commercial aired on the first Sunday in February that’s brought to us by the Miller Brewing and Growing Company.