Late last week news broke that two NBA players were suspended for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA anti-drug policy. Numerous outlets have stated that the suspensions were handed down to Monta Ellis of the Indiana Pacers and Reggie Bullock of the Detroit Pistons after both players tested positive for cannabis.
According to the league’s anti-drug policy, a player is suspended 5 games for their third cannabis violation. As SB Nation points out, NBA players can only be suspended 5 games for one thing (cannabis). Many members of the sports media world made the players out to be bad actors simply for using cannabis. The players were described as ‘letting down their teams and fans.’ Such reactions from members of sports media are nothing new, but still disappointing to see.
The fact of the matter is that if all the players did was consume cannabis, a substance that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol, then clearly the punishment is overly harsh. Had the players consumed prescription drugs or alcohol, two substances that are more harmful than cannabis yet widely embraced by the NBA, they would have been fine and would have received no punishment. That double standard makes no sense.
These suspensions were handed down without any regard for the reason behind the players’ use, such as if the use was for medical purposes. No consideration was given as to whether or not the players’ consumption occurred in a legal state. With 8 states having legalized cannabis for adult use, and 29 states having legalized cannabis for medical use, it is quite possible that the players were consuming cannabis legally at the state level. Unfortunately those details were never even investigated because the NBA prohibits cannabis use with no exceptions.
Monta Ellis has by all accounts been an asset to every team he has played for in the NBA, including his current team (Indiana Pacers). Monta has averaged 17.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists over his NBA career that has spanned 12 seasons. The Indiana Pacers need all the firepower that they can find next year in a bid to improve on their 42-40 record from the 2016-2017 season. Losing an explosive player like Monta for something as ridiculous as cannabis use is something that the Indiana Pacers organization and its fans should be up in arms about.
Reggie Bullock has been in the NBA for 4 seasons, and is a free-agent this offseason. Reggie should be measured by his abilities on the court, but unfortunately he is likely going to have to deal with the unfair stigma that comes with being suspended for cannabis use. Reggie Bullock will now have to deal with the ‘cannabis scarlet letter’ that has hindered too many NBA careers.
Cliff Robinson was suspended three times for cannabis use during his 18 year NBA career, with the third suspension being for 5 games. The suspension came at a pivotal juncture of the season. As such, Cliff can relate to the unfair treatment that these players are currently dealing with.
“You deal with a tremendous amount of stigma when you are suspended from the league. Even after you have served your suspension you feel like an alien in the locker room, at practice, and even when you are walking around the city that you play for. The stigma doesn’t just affect the player, it also affects the players’ families. If a player has truly done something wrong, that would be one thing. But if the player decided to use a substance that is safer than alcohol, and it didn’t harm anyone, it’s completely unfair to take them off the court. It is unfair to the player, it is unfair to the fans, and ultimately it is unfair to the team. The NBA should want its players to be on the court doing what they do best, and not serving a 5 game suspension for consuming something that is legal in so many states now and is supported by a majority of Americans.” said Cliff Robinson.
Marist College, in conjunction with Yahoo, conducted a poll in which sports fans were asked the following question – ‘Would you have more or less respect for your favorite sports athlete if you learned they used marijuana in their personal life? If it makes no difference please say so.’
A substantial 68% of poll participants expressed that if their favorite sports athlete consumed cannabis that it ‘makes no difference’ to the level of respect that they have for the athlete. An additional 3% stated that they would have more respect. Only 28% of poll respondents stated that they would have less respect for an athlete that consumes cannabis.
CBS News recently released poll results which showed the highest level of support for cannabis legalization in America that they have ever recorded. A whopping 61% of poll participants stated that they support legalization.
These poll results show a level of support that is dramatically greater than in 1969 when Gallup Polling found that just 12% of Americans supported legalization. The more than 500% surge in support since 1969 is reflective of how much times have changed, and highlight how professional sports leagues that prohibit cannabis have failed to evolve with the dramatic increase in public support.
A poll conducted by The Big Lead looked specifically at the level of support for cannabis reform among sports media members. An astounding 76.5% of poll participants stated that cannabis prohibition should end.
The results of this particular poll are interesting given the fact that sports media members literally have a front row seat to see how prohibition affects pro athletes, both from a health standpoint as well as a social justice standpoint. The huge level of support among sports media members is something that cannot be highlighted enough.
A poll conducted by PRRI found that, “A majority (54%) of the public believe professional athletes should not be prohibited from using marijuana if they live in a state where it is legal.”
As the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out previously, every Major League Baseball (MLB) team, National Basketball Association (NBA) team, and NFL team are now located in a state that has legalized cannabis in at least CBD-form. The State of Indiana (Pacers and the Colts) was the last remaining state that was a full prohibition state, but a CBD-specific bill was recently signed resulting in zero MLB, NBA, or NFL teams now being located in a 100% prohibition state.
“The math speaks for itself.” Cliff Robinson said. “Cannabis prohibition provides no benefit to professional sports leagues or its players, and a strong majority of fans, and even most members of sports media, recognize that fact. It is time that professional sports leagues that prohibit cannabis, including the NBA, also recognized that fact. These leagues need to get on the right side of history.”
image via The Inquisitr