Despite growing support for the use of medicinal marijuana in the NFL, the league remains steadfast in its stance against the drug. The NFL's true motivations are up for interpretation, but former NFL running back Ricky Williams believes they are self-serving.
According to TMZ.com, Williams feels as though the NFL is trying to protect its image rather than its players.
"I don't think the NFL really cares about whether or not players use marijuana," Williams said.
Current Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark chimed in as well. He admitted that some of his teammates smoke marijuana, and he claimed that many use it as what they believe to be a healthier alternative to other painkillers, according to ESPN.com:
I know guys on my team who smoke. And it's not a situation where you think, "Oh, these are guys trying to be cool." These are guys who want to do it recreationally.
A lot of it is stress relief. A lot of it is pain and medication. Guys feel like, "If I can do this, it keeps me away from maybe Vicodin, it keeps me away from pain prescription drugs and things that guys get addicted to." Guys look at this as a more natural way to heal themselves, to stress relieve and also to medicate themselves for pain. Guys are still going to do it.
Clark's comments come on the heels of New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie stating in a recent interview with This Is 50 that the NFL should turn the other cheek when it comes to the use of marijuana, per Dom Cosentino of NJ.com.
"They need to just let it go," Cromartie said. "We're just going to do it anyway. They just need to let it go. They need to go ahead and say, 'Y'all go ahead, smoke it, do what you need to do.'"
It can be argued that no past or present player is more familiar with the NFL's marijuana policy than Williams. He spent more than a decade in the league with the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, but marijuana use interrupted his career on more than one occasion.
Williams decided to retire in 2004 while he was in his prime due to the fact that he faced a four-game suspension and substantial fine after testing positive for marijuana.
He returned to the Dolphins the following season, but he was subsequently suspended for the entire 2006 season after violating the NFL's drug-testing policy for a fourth time. The fourth test was reportedly related to his interest in holistic medicine rather than marijuana, but the fact remains that Williams has been at odds with the NFL's testing program many times.
Because of that, it is no surprise that Williams' comments are making some waves throughout the NFL community.
The NFL's great marijuana debate has heated up in recent weeks, and commissioner Roger Goodell has made his feelings known on the subject. According to Jane McManus of ESPNNewYork.com, there are not currently any plans to permit marijuana use in the NFL, but Goodell is in favor of keeping tabs on its potential viability:
We'll continue to follow the medicine. Our experts right now are not indicating that we should change our policy in any way. We are not actively considering that at this point in time. But if it goes down the road sometime, that's something that we would never take off the table.
Per Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com, the fact that marijuana is still largely an illegal drug in the United States plays heavily into the NFL's decision to continue testing for it:
As marijuana use in the United States becomes more widely accepted, however, talk of removing it from the NFL's banned substances list will undoubtedly pick up steam as well.
The NFL has every right to ban marijuana if it so chooses since testing employees for the drug is a common practice throughout the business world.
The NFL is no ordinary business, though, and pressure is going to mount on Goodell in terms of making a change down the line.
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