In recent years, the National Football League (NFL)'s backwards stances on many issues have come to light and public opinion hasn't been overwhelmingly negative. From domestic violence to the truth about concussions' effects on players, those at the top of the NFL have been behind the times in how to approach delicate topics within their league, with marijuana and alcohol being no exception.
Currently, beer is the number one sponsor in the NFL while marijuana use can get a player suspended; and that's just for a positive test, let alone possession.
In the marijuana legalization debate, pro-marijuana advocates have always cited alcohol's legality despite evidence of how dangerous it is
in comparison to the plant.
Some of the facts
to consider that come from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism regarding alcohol abuse in the United States include:
- Nearly 88,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes
- In 2013, 30.8% of all driving fatalities (10,076 in total) were alcohol-impaired driving fatalities
- 48% of all cirrhosis deaths in 2011 were alcohol related
- In 2013, 46.4% of all liver disease deaths were related to alcohol
- 1 in 3 liver transplants in the United States in 2009 were due to alcohol-related liver disease
Just something to think about when a player as big as Peyton Manning makes an alcohol-related joke after a game.
So how can something so potentially dangerous be the number one sponsor of the most popular sport in the United States? The answer is simple: because it's big money.
In November 2015, it was announced that Bud Light would pay
the NFL $1.4 billion to remain the league's top beer sponsor until 2022.
On the other hand, marijuana is not big business (yet), can't bring in the kind of income a sports league like the NFL needs to look the other way, and thus must be punished. Proof of this is that other than driving after imbibing, players face little to no alcohol-related discipline.
Mason Tvert, Communications Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, confirmed this notion
. According to him, “NFL players can go out, get completely drunk, and face no punishment from the league. But if a player gets caught using marijuana, they could be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars, forced to sit out games and deemed a troublemaker.”
On a 2014 episode of Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe gave a look inside the NFL locker room when it comes to marijuana use:
“It's not like there's the smoker's corner, where everyone goes and talks about what strain they smoked last night. In the locker room, when guys talked about it, it wasn't, 'I'm gonna go get blazed and tear up the town.' It was more like, 'Yeah, I smoked a bit and then passed out on the couch. Because I felt like crap after practice.'”
Let's review: marijuana use will get a player suspended and his reputation tarnished despite the fact that it is a safer alternative to what the NFL pushes on its players and fans. It doesn't take advanced critical thinking to come to the conclusion that this is not only a hypocritical policy, but it's also a dangerous one.
So what can the NFL do? Well, taking a page out of the National Hockey League (NHL)'s playbook would be a great start. Professional hockey doesn't even test for marijuana and deals with all drug-related violations in-house.
It's highly doubtful Roger Goodell would ever adopt these policies. But if he did, it would at least take the hypocrisy out of the league being sponsored primarily by a product far more dangerous than one that players get punished for using.