Players from the National Football League (NFL) have been leading a call for criminal justice reform in America. The protests and calls for reform have been widely publicized, and don’t appear to be ending any time soon. A national conversation has been underway as a result, and the conversation can be quite intense at times. However, it does appear to be having an effect on the NFL. Yesterday the NFL endorsed a federal criminal justice reform bill, which is a significant development in the overall conversation, and a fairly unprecedented move. Per The Washington Post:

The NFL’s spokesman said on Monday that the league has decided to endorse a bipartisan bill to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders, eliminate “three-strike” provisions that require life sentences and give judges more latitude to reduce sentences for certain low-level crimes.

“We felt that this was an issue over the last months, as we have continued to work with our players on issues of equality and on issues of criminal justice reform, that was surfaced for us, and we thought it was appropriate to lend our support to it,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Monday during a conference call with reporters.

The Uncle Cliffy team commends the NFL on its endorsement. Criminal justice reform is definitely needed in this country, and it’s something that our team definitely supports. But, the Uncle Cliffy team feels that the endorsement does not go far enough, and is somewhat hypocritical given the NFL’s current cannabis policy. The NFL prohibits cannabis consumption by players, with zero exceptions. Any player who is caught with THC metabolites in their system above a threshold of 35 ng/mL is severely punished. Players like Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson have had to endure long suspensions for failing drug tests as a result of cannabis use.

To make matters even worse, the NFL perpetuates institutional racism by penalizing players who are caught with cannabis away from their teams. In America, African Americans are almost 4 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis compared to Caucasians, despite usage rates being relatively the same among the two races. Some areas of America have even greater racial arrest disparities, with parts of Missouri experiencing cannabis arrest rates for African Americans at 18 times the rate of Caucasians. If an African American NFL player is 18 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis off the field, and the NFL penalizes players for cannabis arrests, an African American player is therefore 18 times as likely to be penalized by the NFL for cannabis compared to Caucasian NFL players. That perpetuation of institutional racism is unacceptable.

If the NFL truly supports criminal justice reform it should start by updating its own cannabis policy to ensure that its minority players are no longer disproportionately impacted by the league’s cannabis prohibition policy. Anything short of that and the NFL’s endorsement of the federal bill is hypocritical and insincere. The NFL needs to have compassion for its players, and allow them to use a plant that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol. Free the plant!