The league announced today that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been suspended for the first two games of the 2014 NFL season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy following his offseason arrest for domestic violence. Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Ace Sanders was suspended for four games yesterday for testing positive for marijuana. Josh Gordon is set to face discipline next week for the same infraction as Sanders. Most of the league expects Gordon to be suspended for all of 2014. Justin Blackmon missed a combined 12 games in 2013 for testing positive for marijuana.
What does all of this mean to current and future NFL players? That they’ll be in better standing with their employer, the NFL, if they beat up their girlfriend or wife to the point of unconsciousness rather than smoke marijuana, a drug that already is, or is in the process of becoming, legal in several states. The NFL is sending a crystal-clear message with these rulings, and it is one that is totally crooked and ridiculous.
While I highly doubt Sanders, Gordon or Blackmon were using marijuana to deal with the pain caused by football-related injuries, it is not totally out of the realm of possibilities. Research has shown, and players have attested, that marijuana can in fact be a valuable alternative to other prescription painkillers. NFL Commission Roger Goodell has even hinted at the idea of the league revising their current stance and rules on using marijuana, which makes this ruling even more absurd.
Furthermore, how will Goodell explain the financial losses that they are going suffer to Sanders, Gordon, Blackmon and the other players who receive marijuana-related suspensions if the league’s substance abuse changes and allows marijuana in the future? My guess is those players won’t be reimbursed for their missed game checks.
The worst part of the situation with Rice is the disturbing video of him dragging his unconscious fiancé, now wife, out of an Atlantic City hotel elevator. If you’re asking me, the video was far more damaging to the almighty “NFL shield” and the already tarnished image of professional athletes than players using marijuana.
Goodell informed Rice of his suspension via a letter that reads, “The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public, and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game.” Apparently, domestic violence endangers others and reflects negatively on the NFL far less than a couple of players smoking marijuana.