What if the NBA becomes the first pro league to encourage the use of therapeutic cannabis?
For some years now, the NBA has been the US sports league that lives the most in its time. David Stern’s mandate set the stage. Silver’s, which began in 2014, could well break down the most persistent barriers to major social issues. The task is important. The times are complex in the United States, and you don’t upset a chessboard-like this in the blink of an eye. But the NBA has at least the merit of being on the progressive side.
In 2013, she promoted the coming-out of the first homosexual player in American professional sport, Jason Collins. The following year, a hunt for racist and discriminatory landlords led to the high-profile eviction of Donald Sterling, boss of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Bruce Levenson, boss of the Atlanta Hawks. A year later, the issue of domestic violence was at the center of the discussions, while the powerful NFL sister was stigmatized for her laxity on the subject. By 2016, Silver had dared to relocate the Charlotte All-Star Game just months before it was held, because an anti-LGBT law had been enacted in North Carolina.
Then, again in opposition to the very conservative NFL, the NBA accompanied and supported the players who wanted to express their anger at police violence and discrimination against the African-American community. While the Commish expressed the wish that players should not kneel during the anthem, he encouraged them to show their interest in the cause. Finally, the league has consistently supported its members in their fierce criticism of Donald Trump, including the choice of the Golden State Warriors not to go to the White House to celebrate their title in the traditional manner.
Today, it is a different and potentially thorny issue that the institution must address. Again, the idea is to be ahead of the curve and deal with social reality, while at the same time keeping up with health issues. While more and more states across the country have relaxed their stance on cannabis, voices are raising to make its use legal in NBA. Caution, however. This is strictly therapeutic cannabis. The NBA cannot afford to be considered nirvana for recreational drug enthusiasts after having put in place ruthless regulations to eliminate the scourge of hard drugs in the 1980s.
Marijuana is not a hard drug, and its effects are obviously out of proportion to the damage caused by cocaine, for example. We remember the truncated careers of John Drew or David Thompson, stars in their time, because of their addiction. However, the NBA remains cautious with the image that its actors must convey. It’s safe to say that no player will ever have a blankseed to get stoned at the matches or even have an uncomplicated consumption off the pitch.
For the time being, however, the penalties for offenders are more of a slap on the wrist than a huge slap on the wrist. It is only after a third positive test for cannabis that a basketball player is usually suspended and never for more than five matches. A sign that the authority is aware of reality.