Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant has been hit with a one year suspension for missing multiple drug tests. Bryant had previously tested positive for marijuana, which earned him a four-game suspension in 2015, and is reportedly set to check into rehab. Bryant’s agent told USA Today that his client’s continued marijuana use is a “coping issue” and a “depression issue.” So it was a little strange to see Steelers GM Kevin Colbert release the following statement:
“Discipline” is an odd word to invoke when talking about a guy who, according to his agent, is dealing with depression and has a real dependency on marijuana. These are medical and mental health issues, being talked about in basically the same terms you’d apply to keeping the pads level or the gap closed, as if they were matters of focus and willpower.
Or maybe Colbert knows something we don’t. Maybe Bryant’s agent is throwing out words like “depression” and “rehab” as a smokescreen, and his client is actually just a dude who really likes smoking weed and didn’t see a possible one-year suspension as a good enough reason to stop. Even if that’s the case, Colbert’s statement is still completely ridiculous, because it just serves as an example of the NFL acting as if smoking weed is something deserving of punishment—getting kicked out of the league for an entire year!—rather than a perfectly okay thing to do that’s even increasingly legal around the United States.
In the context of NFL rhetoric, there’s nothing really remarkable about all of this—player runs afoul of NFL rules, player is suspended, player is sternly chastised by organization—but that just reminds you of how strange NFL rhetoric is, and seems once you step back and remember that there actually is a wider world surrounding the NFL. In that world, nobody gives a shit if you smoke weed, and nobody is “disappointed” in people who are possibly struggling with depression and substance abuse problems.
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