The National Football League (NFL) has a major pain issue on its hands that can’t be solved with opioids.
Though the NFL has been hesitant to adapt to changing marijuana laws in the past, outside pressure may finally be taking a toll on the notoriously stubborn conglomerate and forcing its hand. Between the league’s reliance on dangerously addictive prescription painkillers and its unreasonably harsh penalties for players who use cannabis, either medicinally or recreationally, the most popular sports entity in America has a significant amount of progress to make on cannabis.
When we asked NFL great Ricky Williams last year how different his career may have looked if the league had taken a more open minded approach to marijuana, he said, “Authorized use of marijuana would have changed my career drastically. I would not have had to miss two seasons in the middle of my career and I would probably be heading into the Hall of Fame this year. Most importantly, I would be better known for my play on the field and less for my indiscretions off the field. If I had stopped using marijuana, I would add that I would have been forced to rely on the prescription painkillers the doctors handed out, Toradol being the most common.”
Thankfully, it looks like the NFL is turning a new leaf.
According to the Washington Post, the league reached out to representatives from the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) via letter to request a collaboration on marijuana research related to pain management. The NFLPA is currently working on their own independent study of medical marijuana as a therapeutic replacement for opioid painkillers and also aims to loosen restrictions on the use of cannabis by NFL players.
This new development is somewhat surprising considering NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been staunch in his refusal to budge on marijuana reform in the NFL, even saying back in April that he still thought marijuana was addictive.
Even some of the NFL’s most prominent owners, who Goodell answers to, have called on the league to drop its harsh marijuana ban.
At one point during the meeting, there was an opening for any team owner to voice concerns about topics they felt needed the attention of the collective group. At this time, Jones brought up two player conduct-related issues: the league’s cannabis policies and its Goodell-led in-house law enforcement division that acts as judge, jury, and executioner in situations of off-field transgression.
A source with direct knowledge of what went on behind closed doors said that Jones spoke at length during the meeting. At one point, Jones called on the NFL to drop its prohibition on marijuana in favor of an approach that more closely reflects the changing legal and medical landscape in America.
A change to the substance abuse policy would have to be collectively bargained between the NFL and the NFL Players Association — the existing deal is not set to expire until after the 2020 season. Currently, NFL players are tested for a number of substances including marijuana, and face a series of escalating penalties including suspension and loss of pay for each successive failed test.
Photo courtesy of NFL News Desk Admin