The latest in a lengthy list of career roadblocks for Cleveland Browns star receiver Josh Gordon came Thursday when the 26-year-old was denied reinstatement by the National Football League.
According to USA Today Sports, Gordon reapplied for reinstatement on March 1 of this year — the first day he was eligible to do so. The NFL has yet to issue a formal statement on the Gordon situation.
Last season, the speedy deep threat was suspended for the first four games of the season as part of a conditional reinstatement agreement with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. However, just before the suspension was set to expire, Gordon checked himself into rehab, rendering the agreement with Goodell void and extending the suspension throughout the rest of the season. That 2016 reinstatement bid came after Gordon was suspended for the entirety of the 2015 season and ten games of the 2014 season — all for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.
In Gordon’s last semblance of a full season — 14 games in 2013 after a two-game ban for substance abuse program violations — he was a first-team Associated Press All Pro, leading the entire NFL in receiving yards while playing for the Cleveland Browns.
It goes without saying that some of this falls on Gordon’s shoulders. Before a player fails an NFL drug test, they are only subjected to one random test per year, with the frequency only escalating after violations. Many NFL players most likely use cannabis and just make sure they stay off of it around April, when the league usually begins testing.
But at what point do we look at the rule itself and question not only its effectiveness but its unusually harsh accompanying sanctions? Considering the plant is legal for medical use in the majority of the United States, it painfully obvious that the NFL needs to revamp their cannabis policies.
If NFL players could freely choose medical marijuana over highly addictive opioid painkillers, should that be a legal option in their respective state, promising careers like Josh Gordon’s may not have gone up in flames. Regardless of whether the player uses cannabis recreationally or for a specific and targeted medical issue, all of these players withstand a constant beating more than worthy of some therapeutic relief — especially when the profit-focused league needs them back on the gridiron Thursday night for the financial reward of prime-time ratings.
The irony of the NFL’s insistence on being extraordinarily behind on medical marijuana is that they have been notoriously lax on exponentially more harmful issues such as domestic violence and the excessive painkiller use among players. Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice violently assaulted his wife, on camera no less, and was handed down just a 2-game suspension by Goodell. After tremendous public backlash, the suspension was extended to an indefinite length, though Rice later won an appeal and had the remainder of his exile vacated. Rice hasn’t played an NFL down since, but he was closer to the end of his playing days when he was suspended, whereas a player like Gordon is missing out on the prime of his potentially illustrious career.
The NFL Players Association has vowed to fight for cannabis reform in the league, but Goodell has mostly held his ground.
Gordon will reportedly be able to reapply for league reinstatement once again in the Fall, but if this time around is any indication, Goodell and the NFL won’t be an easy sell.
Cover Image Courtesy of Sports Illustrated