News broke earlier this week that ex-NBA commissioner David Stern now supports ending cannabis prohibition in the National Basketball League (NBA). While his comments were a welcomed change from the stance he took while he was the head of the NBA, it was disheartening that the endorsement of NBA cannabis reform from David Stern wasn’t coupled with an apology for supporting failed NBA cannabis prohibition for so long. The Uncle Cliffy team is hopeful that it will happen in the near future.

Stern’s endorsement of cannabis reform in the NBA generated a lot of comments from current and former members of the NBA, including current Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. Kerr previously stated that he had used cannabis while recovering from a recent back surgery. At the same time that he confessed to having used cannabis to deal with the surgery-related pain, he also stated that he hoped that the NBA would soften its stance on cannabis use among NBA players.

Kerr repeated his support for cannabis reform this week in response to questions about David Stern’s new cannabis revelations. When asked if he thought that the NBA would eventually allow cannabis use by players for medical purposes Kerr answered with, “I think it’ll happen.” Kerr went on to express concerns related to fan perceptions regarding cannabis reform in the NBA. Per The Mercury News:

The tricky part in the institution of the drug, according to Kerr, will be the perception of the drug by the league’s fanbase. However, Kerr admits there’s one thing that may overrule the opinions of the fans.

“The perception of the fans is important,” said Kerr. “In terms of selling our business, but the health of the players should be the most important thing.”

Fortunately for Steve Kerr, and for the health and wellness of NBA players, a growing body of polling shows a significant level of support for cannabis reform from sports fans. Marist College, in conjunction with Yahooconducted 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.

A combined 71% of poll participants would have equal or more respect for a professional athlete (including NBA athletes) if they found out that they consumed cannabis, and not just for medical purposes. That’s significantly more than the support for national legalization (64%) by American voters, and the same as the level of support for medical cannabis legalization in the NFL among its players (also 71%).

Another 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.” Currently 8 states and Washington D.C. allow cannabis for adult use, and 29 states allow cannabis for medical use. Another 17 states allow at least the use of CBD-specific cannabis products for certain conditions. Only four states in America currently have full cannabis prohibition in place – Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Kansas, none of which have NBA teams. In the case of the Toronto Raptors, they are located in a country that has not only legalized cannabis for medical use, full legalization is on the way in mid 2018.

Polling has even shown overwhelming support for cannabis reform in professional sports leagues among sports media members. 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. Fan perception is a valid concern for professional sports leagues like the NBA that have an image and reputation to maintain. But as polling clearly shows, there is nothing to worry about. Hopefully this data helps members of the NBA like Steve Kerr embrace cannabis reform even more. Free the plant!

image via Wikimedia