The NFL Is Perpetuating Institutional Racism By Suspending Geronimo Allison

A lot of attention has been focused towards trying to get the National Football League (NFL) to allow players to use cannabis for medical purposes. It is an effort that is very worthwhile, and the Uncle Cliffy team absolutely supports such a league policy change. However, the Uncle Cliffy team also feels that such a policy change would no go far enough, and that cannabis prohibition should be ended in the NFL entirely, as well as in other professional sports leagues that prohibit cannabis use.

Even if the league allowed players to use cannabis for medical purposes, players could still be penalized by the league for cannabis, even if they were in full compliance with their state of residence’s medical cannabis program. Not all states recognize patients’ status as a legal medical cannabis patient. A player could be traveling, and get arrested in a prohibition state with the medical cannabis that they need to treat their condition(s).

A player in the scenario described above would not be in violation of a hypothetical NFL policy that allowed players to test positive for cannabis when they are in compliance with their state of residence’s medical cannabis laws. However, they would be in violation of the cannabis prohibition laws in the state in which they were arrested, which would then result in the player being punished by the league. The NFL, like most other professional sports leagues, penalizes players for getting arrested for cannabis, no matter the circumstances. The latest victim of that policy is Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison, who was recently suspended after being caught with a personal amount of cannabis in Wisconsin. Per Packers News:

Green Bay Packers receiver Geronimo Allison will serve a one-game suspension without pay for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy, the NFL announced Wednesday.

Allison was charged with a misdemeanor possession of marijuana in December after being pulled over for speeding on Interstate 43 near Francis Creek. He reached a settlement with prosecutors and will pay $330.50 with community service requirements. The charge was amended to an ordinance violation.

Regardless of if Geronimo Allison was a registered medical cannabis patient in a legal state or not, the fact of the matter is Mr. Allison was arrested for cannabis (which he maintains was not his) and so the league took action on him. In doing so, the NFL is perpetuating institutional racism. As the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out before, cannabis prohibition enforcement has a disproportionate impact on the African American community. Nationally, African Americans are almost four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis compared to Caucasians, even though consumption rates are relatively the same between races. In Wisconsin, African Americans are six times as likely to be arrested for cannabis.

So if an African American NFL player (such as Geronimo Allison) is six times as likely to be arrested for cannabis off the field, then they are also six times as likely to be suspended by the NFL because of cannabis. There is no debating that fact, as the math clearly speaks for itself. What is happening to Geronimo Allison, and has happened to a number of other NFL players, is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. It should serve as an unfortunate example of why NFL players need to demand a complete end to cannabis prohibition in the league, and why athletes in other leagues should demand nothing short of the same thing.

“I feel bad for Geronimo Allison, and for his family who is also having to now deal with the stigma that goes along with being suspended from competition because of cannabis. I know firsthand what that feels like, and it’s nothing that I would ever want to wish upon anyone.  This young man did nothing wrong and didn’t harm anyone, so why is he being taken off of the field for having plant material in his car? He had plant material in his car that is safer than many substances that the NFL widely embraces. How is that fair? Hopefully he can move past this and focus on the upcoming season, but that will likely be harder now because of the stigma he is going to have to endure.” said Cliff Robinson.