It has been a very interesting week since Seattle’s overwhelming Super Bowl victory over Denver. Other than understandable jubilation in Seattle and civic embarrassment in Denver, a lot of the NFL discussion has been about an unlikely topic: medical marijuana.
Should the NFL allow — or more accurately — not punish its players for using marijuana? It is widely assumed that athletes use marijuana not only recreationally, but to deal with the aches and pains and stress that come from a professional sports career.
Does marijuana eliminate pain? Oxford University issued a study last year that said it doesn’t eliminate pain, but it does make it more bearable.
What’s a little surprising is that the NFL is willing to stick its neck out at all on this issue.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is as sharp as they come, talked about the marijuana issue during Super Bowl week and left the door wide open to a more liberal interpretation of marijuana use among NFL players.
“We will follow medicine and if they determine this could be a proper usage, we will consider that,” said Goodell in during his annual Super Bowl news conference.
That set off a firestorm of dialogue that has dwarfed some normal football discussions that happen the week after the big game, like “Can Seattle Repeat?” and “Who will be the first pick in the NFL Draft?”
Many of the players tweeted support of the commissioner’s comments, although former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunnell, said the league’s testing of marijuana should be stricter, not relaxed.
The NFL’s influence over public debate is clear. The league put on a game that was the most watched TV program in the history of our country. And it was noted on more than one occasion that the two Super Bowl teams came from states (Colorado and Washington) that have legalized cannabis for recreational use.
So if the NFL is going to talk about marijuana, it’s going to influence the debate. But don’t you find it curious that the NFL even took this issue on?
Part of it could have to do with the extremely negative reaction that the league has been receiving for its lack of progress — or even outright hostility — to addressing the long term effects of brain trauma that the game can cause. If you haven’t seen PBS Frontline’s “League of Denial” special on this topic, we highly recommend you watch it.
With the NFL saying it might be open to allowing players to use marijuana, it’ll be interesting to see where the conversation about legalization leads us.