It's Day 2 of the NFL Draft and Roger Goodell is out hustling on the morning show circuit to get the word out. Earlier today, he appeared on ESPN's Mike & Mike to talk football, the draft, and the league's over reliance on opioid use. Hold on, excuse me, I'm being told that's incorrect. What? Oh, he went on and said that marijuana was addictive but didn't mention anything about the pain pill mill his league has turned into? Seems weird!
Mike Greenberg got the ball rolling, asking Goodell about the growing number of players who feel weed is a good way to manage pain and who want to see the league make an allowance for that. What Greenberg failed to mention—and what makes Goodell's immediate response downright farcical—is that players want weed instead of the painkillers that are administered by team physicians. The 32 teams in the NFL are currently being sued by a group of players who say the league and team doctors over prescribed painkillers and violated federal laws for distribution and travel. A recent report noted that NFL team doctors literally booed a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was brought in to educate them on how to avoid breaking the law. A recent study found that 71 percent of the 644 players surveyed say they misused opioids during their career, and 7 percent of those players say they still use them in retirement, three times more than the rest of the population. Across the board, NFL players are using and continuing to use painkillers—which are objectively more dangerous than weed—at a higher rate than the general population.
When Greenberg asked about marijuana, the first words out of Goodell's mouth were "we look at it from a medical standpoint." He then went on to say that the league is concerned about "something that can be negative to the health of our players" and claimed that weed has an "addictive nature." Both of these statements, obviously, are false. In the most generous reading, marijuana can be technically addictive, but relative to every other legally available drug, its 'addictive nature" is incredibly low. And, it's difficult to claim the NFL cares about the health of players based on the league's attitude regarding painkillers and even Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the neurodegenerative disease affecting many ex-NFL players that has been linked to repeated blows to the head.
This was classic NFL dog whistling. Roger Goodell went on TV and made an emotional appeal to the Say No To Drugs hysteria—which has dogged marijuana for years while (miraculously!) that same mania has not attached itself to the pharmaceutical industry—and tried to say it was based on science. In the process, he showed his trademark lack of self awareness/scruples. The problem the NFL supposedly has with weed is that it is addictive and dangerous, but if you can get a prescription for a pill from Pfizer, then there's no problem at all—until the league's denial of basic facts gets them sued by ex-players again.
And that's where we find Roger Goodell at his most glib. The commissioner of a league that for years denied the science behind concussions and is only just now paying for it, ended his thoughts on weed thusly: "It's not as simple as someone wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players in that circumstance, but I want to make sure the negative consequences aren't something that we'll be held accountable for some years down the road."