NFL Veterans Discuss Cannabis, Opioids, and the Future of Football in “Game Changers” Round Table
From Vicodin handed out like candy on team planes to stories of post-retirement self-harm, the panel broke down everything wrong with the NFL’s absurd drug policy.
Published on October 20, 2017

Lead photo via Flickr user Parker Anderson

In the midst of Week 7 of the 2017-18 NFL season, professional football has come to occupy a peculiar place in America’s social fabric. After weeks of targeted tweets from President Trump calling on league officials and team owners to punish players using the National Anthem to protest social injustice, a significant study about brain damage, concussions, and head trauma has largely been swept under the rug — all while team doctors continue to hand out prescription pain medication freely, with cannabis users still suspended after a positive test. Trump has implemented his tainted Midas touch to obscure the real issues and turn the NFL into a political shitshow.

To bring the conversation back to pain management, player health, and the NFL’s failed drug policy, four league veterans — Marvin Washington, Leonard Marshall, Eben Britton, and Grant Mattos — teamed up with Herb for a Toronto-based roundtable aptly dubbed “Game Changers.”

In the 10 minute clip, the pro-pot ballers discuss their less-than-stellar experiences with team-sanctioned opiates, smoking with teammates behind the backs of league officials, and what the league needs to do to protect their employees from a life of pain and addiction.

“They have to have an alternative,” 11-year NFL veteran and current CBD spokesman Marvin Washington pleaded with the panel. “Look at something that’s non-toxic, non-addictive, and has never killed anybody. I always say, I’ve seen plenty of guys leave the game addicted to pain pills, but I’ve never seen anyone leave the game addicted to marijuana.”

Currently, marijuana is firmly set on the NFL’s banned substance list. A number of discussions have taken place between the league office and the Player’s Union about funding medical marijuana research in the future, but so far no concrete steps have been made to make the natural medicine available to players. Even in NFL cities like Denver and Seattle, where recreational cannabis is legal, players face the same anti-weed consequences when it’s time for a league-mandated urine test.

Despite the career-threatening taboo, players in all of America’s major sports leagues have broken the rules to get high for decades, and the NFL is no exception. During the roundtable, Britton talked about smoking up with at least four of his lineman teammates over the years, a story quickly backed up by Marshall.

After the discussion, Washington again stressed the importance of openly discussing cannabis use in the NFL, a hard ask for current players, but a necessity for retired pros looking to draw awareness to the still-touchy subject.

“Sitting together with the group of guys that spanned four decades of football and talking was therapeutic,” Washington said in a press release. “Too many times we think we are going through something alone, but this will show guys that they are not. Maybe this will start conversations all around the country between former players and ultimately lead to change.”

In the past year alone, ex-NFL players Reggie Williams, Eugene Monroe, Arian Foster, Jared Odrick, Franco Harris, and more have joined Washington and the other panel members in public support for medical marijuana's acceptance in professional football.

Still, with the national conversation around the NFL so politically charged and lead astray, the panel agreed that more work and continued unity will be needed before any significant changes are made.

“If players are going to get NFL teams to move away from the use of synthetic pain drugs to treat injuries, I feel they need to band together and form an alliance with one another regarding the use of CBD,” Marshall said. “The general public may think these players are just looking to get high, however, many of these players are just looking to get healthy, and that’s more than fair.”

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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