Marijuana And Crime In The NFL: Time For A Reformation Of Policies

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Ron Strider

Well-Known Member
The NFL’s imbalance of punishment for positive marijuana tests versus other more serious crimes is starting to smell a little funny.

Following the denial for reinstatement in the Josh Gordon case, I took it upon myself to look deeper into the well-known troubles within the NFL policies. The topics here are widespread and include many players, I will take the leagues lead and use Josh Gordon as my example.

Now, many of you are thinking, with a name like Backwoods, I know where this guy is heading. Well, in part, you may be correct — but let me clarify. Many people remain steadfast in their anti-marijuana beliefs, and it is not my intent to change any minds.

My intent here is directly focused on the extreme penalties in place for a guy like Josh Gordon, and the extremely light penalties in place for a guys like Adrian Peterson, Adam Jones, Ray Rice, and Michael Vick.

There is a varying debate on marijuana, none will argue that. I have never heard good argument for domestic violence, animal cruelty, sexual assault, and child abuse. 28 days after smoking marijuana, traces can still be found within your body. That is an easy bust.

You can beat your wife, your kids, your dog, and assault your girlfriend all in the same night, then head to work the following morning and no test will prove any of it. The NFL’s stance, and rightfully so, is that the legal system must run its course before they will take action of their own.

So why is that not the case with marijuana? How many times has Josh Gordon been arrested? How many people has he hurt? Is he a violent offender? Perhaps someday the NFL will allow players to utilize the benefits of marijuana to assist with the brain injury issues rather than utilizing the ease of testing for it.

Then there are performance enhancing drugs. Pot is not one of them. Cheating by PEDs draws a four-game suspension.

The league does allow for one failed urine test before issuing a two-game suspension for marijuana. A third failed test then brings a four-game ban. Smoking three joints is the same penalty as cheating​.

I am not supporting everything Josh Gordon has done. Rules are rules and they should be followed. I find it inexcusable to disregard them over, and over, and over. That said, does the punishment fit the crime?

As far as repeated offences go, dare I mention Adam “Pacman” Jones. This is a guy who has likely been arrested more times than Josh Gordon has submitted positive marijuana tests. Jones spit in the face of a female police office, and he might face a two-or four-game suspension for it. All this after countless episodes of violent behavior.

Jones’ suspension in 2007, by the way, was an incident in which three people got shot and Jones was suspended for the entire 2007 season and part of the 2008 season. Of course, that is a shorter duration than Josh Gordon’s current hiatus.

The imbalanced instances such as this aren’t limited.

David Parry was charged with criminal damage, auto theft, driving under the influence, resisting arrest with physical force and assault. A video released by TMZ Sports showed the ordeal with police during his arrest. His “uncooperative golf cart” will likely lead him to a two-game suspension.

Albert Haynesworth and Ndamukong Suh have committed outrageous acts during games, including stomping on the head and leg of opponents. Yet combined, they have been suspended for a total of six games. Donte’ Stallworth drove into, and killed, a pedestrian while drunk. He was charged with vehicular manslaughter — and received a one-year suspension.

In 1998, Leonard Little pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter after he hit and killed a woman while driving drunk. That offense only warranted a suspension of eight games. His second DUI in 2004 did not warrant suspension.

The infamous Ray Rice video netted a two-game suspension. A follow-up suspension was overturned, as he had already been punished. Ben Roethlisberger’s two separate instances involving claims of sexual assault resulted in a four-game suspension.

In all fairness, claims of rape are perhaps the most difficult among these issues. What happens behind closed doors can lead to a variety of who-really-knows scenarios. And in Big Ben’s cases, no legal action was pursued. If it is worthy of a suspension, however, four games seems better compared to a sprained ankle.

The New Orleans Saints “Bounty Program” led to two coaches being suspended for a year and another for six games. How many seasons has Gordon been suspended again? I lost count.

Michael Vick was suspended from July 2007-July 2009 for his role in a brutal dog fighting ring. He did, however, spend 18 months of that two year period behind bars. So, essentially, he was only available for six months of it and some of that was during the offseason.

Of the 319 games suspended in 2016, 159 were for substance abuse (stats per Wikipedia), and that is not including Gordon, as his latest suspension was from 2015.

Josh Gordon tested positive for marijuana, a lot, and was arrested for driving while impaired in 2014. He has been suspended for 45 games, with more coming. Since the beginning of his career in 2012, Gordon has been permitted to play in only 35 games and only five since his phenomenal 2013 season.

Do you remember Justin Blackmon? He played in 20 games and was officially suspended for 20 games for failed drug tests and a DUI arrest. He has played in only four games since his rookie year in 2012.

There is a valid argument that these incidents must be proven before a suspension and, in many cases, proof is difficult to procure. The league is constantly updating policies to maintain the image of being “tough on crime“. But from what I can see, it feels like a tepid effort.

If we could tell someone’s guilt in any matter by analyzing their urine, it would certainly be an easier issue to resolve. That said, there are numerous instances of undoubted proof, whether by video footage, confessions, and even convictions. Yet league policies allow for a prompt return to the game for nearly any infraction, outside of marijuana usage.

•Brutal domestic violence – 2 games

•Sexual assault – 4 games

•Manslughter while driving drunk – 8 to 16 games

•Orchestrating a gruesome dog fighting curcuit – 32 games

•Smoking marijuana – 45 games (and counting)

Children grow up seeing their heroes punching women, beating children, and torturing animals, yet the message relayed by the NFL is that marijuana is the worse than all of them. Even those dead-set against marijuana should take issue with that.

When NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell states the “integrity of the game is the most important thing”, I wonder what exactly he means. The definition of integrity via dictionary.com:

"adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty."

It is my understanding that you can do just about anything you want to, as long as you’re not smoking pot while you do it. But at least marijuana is easy to test for.



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