Intimidation has been used to keep cannabis prohibition in place for decades. Various forms of intimidation have been used by cannabis opponents in an effort to send a chilling effect towards those that would want to invoke their First Amendment right to free speech. Simply talking about cannabis has historically been considered enough to establish just cause to wreak havoc on people’s lives.
It doesn’t just happen in society, it also happens in professional sports leagues. A prime example of that was on display recently when Chicago Bears lineman Kyle Long became the target of a ‘random’ drug test after tweeting about cannabis. Mr. Long was responding to the following question from another Twitter user – ‘Kyle what weed you on.’ Kyle Long replied with:
I don’t smoke weed it’s dangerous and addictive from what I’ve been told by my superiors https://t.co/04sM0FqAAc
— Kyle (@Ky1eLong) May 7, 2017
Kyle followed the tweet with ‘Pot is a drug, and will kill you.’ and an emoticon with sunglasses, indicating that he was joking. A few Twitter users tried trolling Kyle Long, which Kyle took in stride and responded back with:
“How to understand a joke” should be in your google search https://t.co/3XBjxS01OW
— Kyle (@Ky1eLong) May 7, 2017
One Twitter user made what seemed at the time to be a benign prediction:
@Ky1eLong *Gets hit with random drug test
— Nicks (@Nicks_214) May 7, 2017
Kyle Long responded with colorful language indicating he would pass a drug test if he was subjected to one. A reasonable person would not expect a grown adult like Kyle Long, who was obviously joking, to actually have to take a drug test. However, NFL league officials apparently did not think the joking was funny because Kyle Long was indeed hit with a ‘random’ drug test just days after his Twitter exchange, as documented in another tweet from Kyle Long’s Twitter account:
Come at me bro pic.twitter.com/Ax3EHkFxPK
— Kyle (@Ky1eLong) May 8, 2017
Mr. Long seemed very confident that he would pass the test, so fortunately for him it doesn’t appear to be an issue. However, the harmful nature of the NFL’s actions go well beyond just this one ‘random’ drug test. The NFL’s actions harm the ongoing conversation surrounding the improvement of the NFL’s cannabis policy, which has been called for not just by NFL players, but also by at least one prominent NFL owner.
By targeting Kyle Long, the NFL is sending a chilling effect over the league, essentially indicating that any player who even talks about cannabis can become the target of league drug testing. This should be concerning for all NFL players, even those that feel that they don’t have anything to hide. How can even a non-cannabis consuming player speak up and invoke their First Amendment right to free speech when they know that they will have to be drug tested as a result?
Even if a player doesn’t have anything to hide, they still may be subjected to the inhumane act that is involuntarily having one’s bodily fluid gathered by another person. That is a demoralizing experience, and no player should have to face such actions when they have done nothing more than speak their mind about an issue that is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans. Literally every NFL team is located in a state (or district in D.C.’s case) that has legalized cannabis in at least CBD-specific form. But in the NFL, cannabis is prohibited to the point that a player can’t even talk about cannabis. That’s ridiculous.
“We’re not talking about a player who is being questioned because of his actions, we are talking about a player who is being targeted because of his words alone. That sets a dangerous precedent that is completely counterproductive and is definitely not something that is being done with the players’ best interest in mind. The NFL’s cannabis policy involves players’ health, and that’s something that needs to be taken very seriously by the league. What the NFL did to Kyle Long is harmful to the greater conversation that is going on in the NFL right now, and that’s unacceptable.” said Cliff Robinson.
The NFL needs to do better. The NFL needs to recognize that this is a serious issue. NFL players, fans, owners, and all league officials deserve to have a constructive, meaningful conversation about cannabis policy that is unhindered by attempts to halt the free speech of NFL players.
image via Bear Goggles On