The NFL Players Association has gathered for its annual meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona. And one of the topics will be potential changes to the rules regarding the consumption of a substance that, while not yet legal for recreational purposes in Arizona, can be smoked in multiple states where the NFL does business.
Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune explains that a potential proposal to the NFL for revising the substance-abuse policy is, as expected, on the agenda for the meetings.
“How we treat marijuana as a substance is a focus, but it’s not necessarily the only substance we will be looking at,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told Craig. “We’re trying to approach this in a comprehensive way for pain management as opposed to just, ‘Are we going discipline players for smoking or not?’ It’s more, ‘What are we going to do to present the league with a way that we can help players deal with pain addiction, opioid use,’ things like that.”
None of this means that a proposal is coming soon from the union.
“I don’t expect there will be a proposal ready to present to the league [this week],” Atallah said. “I think the realistic expectation is to have a candid discussion with the players about how the policies are working now . . . and how they want to move forward. Our philosophy is to try to make [penalties for marijuana use] less punitive and more supportive of players who may need assistance.”
Countering that objective is the reality that the NFL will surely want concessions from the players in exchange for any changes to the policy. Likewise, the potential for federal enforcement of laws against marijuana use for recreational purposes could reduce some of the public pressure on Big Shield to quit playing Big Brother to guys who choose to smoke marijuana on their own time when away from work.
Then there’s the inescapable reality that 99 percent or more of the league’s players understand the procedure for avoiding a positive test result. One, quit smoking in the middle of March. (As in, like, now.) Two, wait for the annual substance-abuse test, which can happen at any point between April 20 (yes, 4/20) and August. Three, after the annual test, smoke ’em if you got ’em.
What the NFLPA needs to ask itself is whether all players want to make a concession that ultimately helps only the small percentage of them that can’t or won’t stay away from marijuana long enough to generate one clean urine sample per year. Most players, frankly, should be opposed to giving up anything that would benefit a handful of players every year.