Even if the owners would like to see a less evasive Commissioner Roger Goodell, they pay him millions in part to be the pin cushion for the scrutiny and criticism of their business practices. He earned a bonus on Friday when trying to reconcile the league’s positions on marijuana and daily fantasy.
Vastly different on the surface, the issues link together on the question of what state law does and doesn’t allow. State law allows DFS? We’ll embrace it. State law allows marijuana use? We don’t care.
“We always review our drug policy,” Goodell said at Friday’s press conference regarding the possibility of adjusting the league’s prohibition on marijuana use given the gradual expansion of its permissible uses, both medicinally and recreationally. “That is something that our medical professionals do on a regular basis. We have had discussions with them in the past about that, not recently. They have opposed that. We are not restricted obviously by the state laws. It’s an NFL policy and we believe it’s the correct policy, for now, in the best interest of our players and the long-term health of our players. I don’t foresee a change in that clearly in the short term but we’ll continue to be in touch with our medical personnel. If that changes, we’ll discuss it.”
Even with increasing anecdotal evidence regarding the benefits of medical marijuana for football players, Goodell isn’t ready to change the league’s position.
“I don’t distinguish between the medical marijuana and marijuana issue in the context of my previous answer,” he said. “Our medical professionals look at that. That is exactly what we talked to them about. I would assume that it would be used in a medical circumstance or if it is even in recreational, our medical professionals look at it in both ways and determine whether they think it is in the best interest to do that. Yes, I agree there has been changes, but not significant enough changes that our medical personnel have changed their view. Until they do, then I don’t expect that we will change our view.”
So who cares if state law allows it? Father Football knows best, and the NFL will continue to reach into the private lives of players and prevent them from doing what they legally could otherwise do, in certain states.
With daily fantasy, the NFL is willing to take full advantage of partnerships with companies that do business in states where this specific form of non-gambling gambling is legal — and in states where the law is unsettled and litigation to determine its legality has been filed.
“I don’t make that determination,” Goodell said regarding the legality of daily fantasy. “Each state makes that determination. We are obviously going to follow the law. We’re going to abide by that in every which way. I said before that I think as it relates to daily fantasy there needs to be more consumer protection. I want that for our fans. I think our fans deserve that. But the primary interest I have is in the integrity of the game. So, that’s why we’ve opposed sports gambling in the past. When it comes to daily fantasy, I think there’s a different issue here. You have mash-ups of players. There are different issues that are raised that are not raised with sports gambling or traditional sports gambling. But, we are obviously working with all officials in each state. We will cooperate fully, and we will also abide by the law. I think for our long-term growth, fantasy football is more than daily fantasy. Fantasy football is fun. It’s something that I think our fans love to enjoy, but we also make sure – we have to make sure – that we’re protecting our fans at all times.”
Yes, Father Football will protect the fans from others. And Father Football will continue to protect the players from themselves — primarily because Father Football realizes that any change to the marijuana policy becomes a matter of collecting bargaining. Which requires the NFL Players Association to protect the players from Father Football, who will never relax the rules on marijuana without a concession or two (or more) from the players.
Through it all, discussions about what state law does or doesn’t allow represent the carefully-massaged talking points aimed at publicly justifying the things the NFL privately has decided to do, with Goodell being the public face and voice of positions that at time hopelessly conflict.