This week was supposed to be a joyous one. One of the NFL’s top running backs, Le’Veon Bell, returned from a three game suspension after missing a drug test over the summer and Cleveland Browns’ receiver Josh Gordon was in the final week of a suspension that’s stretched back a long, long time—Gordon last saw the field in 2014.
Then, suddenly, Josh Gordon checked himself into rehab. The NFL threw his name back on the suspended list—a shady move to suspend a player for checking himself into rehab, right???—and Gordon’s chances of ever playing professional football again seem to be really slim at this point.
Bell and Gordon both have made the same mistake, a mistake that millions of Americans make and DON’T lost their jobs for: they smoked a little too much weed and got caught.
Let’s put this in perspective:
Josh Gordon was suspended all of last season. Suspensions in the NFL are unpaid. He was not paid for a year because he smoked weed. (Okay, #technically his suspension was for him testing positive for alcohol after having a drink on the team plane, but Gordon was only not allowed to drink because he was in the NFL’s recovery program because weed.)
Greg Hardy physically abused his girlfriend and then basically dusted off his shoulder and said I do what I want and has no respect for women. He didn’t play in 2014 because of this, but instead of being suspended he was placed on the Exempt List, which meant he still got paid. He served a four game suspension last season. Thankfully no one signed him this season, but still…
Josh Gordon drinks and smokes weed and loses a year’s worth of paychecks. Greg Hardy is a violent abuser and kept a year’s worth of paychecks. There is a serious, serious issue here.
On Sunday night, a reporter for NBC asked Le’Veon Bell if his issues were behind him. Bell’s answer isn’t what’s important here. The question—that someone asked Bell about his Serious Problem with marijuana is really telling about the way the NFL treats certain people in certain ways for certain things. I don’t recall a postgame interview in which someone asked someone are you done beating your wife? Or said no more sexual assaults for you, right? Maybe it’s happened, but more likely questions along those lines were asked in press conferences, not on the field the moment the game ended. But in the eyes of the NFL media, Bell’s problems were worthy of that attention.
I read a really great article by one of my favorite contemporary sports writers, Jordan Ritter Conn, about former NFL receiver Justin Blackmon. Like Gordon, Blackmon ran afoul of the NFL’s drug laws too many times and is now gone from the League, though Blackmon had the added caveat of having multiple DUI arrests—Gordon has one, which is obviously one too many, but discussions of drinking are different than discussions of weed. Conn’s essay is a good read and I am mentioning it here just to say everyone should read it.
[Sidenote to anyone reading this who can get me a job at The Ringer: HI HI HI]
It’s not surprising that NFL players smoked weed. It’s a violent, violent game, and marijuana could be used as a relatively safe way of managing pain. Whereas prescription pain pills are highly addictive, marijuana is not highly addictive. Legality aside, it’s a much better choice for athletes than a lot of other things that can help with pain.
But the NFL doesn’t care. They have lots of draconian rules and they care way too much about X thing and not enough about Y thing.
This Week In Football
- Odell Beckham Jr. is having a fairly disappointing season and there’s been a lot of talk about his immaturity. Some of this talk feels really problematic—Odell was frustrated by a bad game and hit a kicking net on the sidelines and cried and COME ON that’s just a dude being upset and criticism of something like that feels like it’s rooted in some prehistoric notions of masculinity—but there’s maybe some of that talk is valid. This week Odell got in the face of a ref and last year he almost fought Josh Norman and there’s nothing wrong with expressing frustration but there is when that frustration manifests itself in violent ways.
- I lost again in fantasy football, this time to J. Andrew Briseño, who is a fiction writer and professor at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
- A game happened in London and I don’t think anyone really cared.
- Pittsburgh’s offense looked unbeatable one week after they looked really beatable. So, yeah, things change fast in the NFL.
- Honestly, I was bored by this week in football. The best thing I watched was a college game on Saturday night, Clemson and Louisville. Two very good teams in a game that came down to the very end, when Louisville failed on a fourth down play near the goal line. Sunday felt too much like we were settling into that part of the year where things don’t matter as much and everything blends together.
- Tom Brady will be back next week. We’ll—not sure why I like the first-person plural so much—get to talk DEFLATEGATE and player’s rights Yay!