The NFL, Congress and Drugs…


The NFL has sought the help of Congress, yes, Congress, the big system in the pretty white building that your tax dollars finance, to help them with their drug policy. It seems that some Minnesota Vikings found a loophole in the NFL’s drug policy and the league has taken it to congressional hearings. Is this really a congressional matter?  One would guess that congress has some big important stuff to do.  Why cant the NFL draft and actualize their own policy. Has it occurred to the NFL that they need to revisit their policy and see why it doesn’t work?

Sports has always been a confusing system in which to draft drug policy. For starters, it is fueled by alcohol. Sporting events are swimming in booze, financed by beer consumption so right away there is a system tolerating drunkenness. Beer and football go together, like peanut butter and jelly or crack and hookers.  The layers of complexity with sports and drugs happens quickly and most policy is standard “just say no” rhetoric.  This culture canonize athletes and then demonize them when they show weakness and human frailty.  It’s easy for us to condemn the likes of Michael Vick without knowing his story, culture, upbringing, etc.  Why do we expect that athletes are above using and that it is something that they can be warned out of doing. An NFL career has a very short shelf life, it makes sense to me that  players will look for every advantage they can find while they still have earning potential. This is a mental health issue, rather than burdening congress with this, shouldn’t the NFL be accountable for their own actions? Why did congress agree to this? Blame, scapegoating and buck passing never gains traction with any chemical misuse issue. That is one of the few absolutes in chemical dependency policy. It doesn’t work in schools, families, communities and it won’t work in the NFL.

Rather than calling congress it would make much more sense to hire a committee, headed by a psychiatrist with specific addiction training, to address these matters. The committee should include a peer. The NFL should have a mental health professional as part of their team, not a performance enhancing “sports psychologist” but a social worker. There should be an intake, a biopsychosocial , with every player, quarterly meetings with the mental health worker. Why is this hard?

Representative Lee Terry (R. Nebraska) says “We will be much harsher on cleaning up the sport than the directors of the league.” Great. More, “tough on crime” ego driven nonsense. Ok, Representative Terry, if you are going to “clean up the sport” start with the beer bottles in the parking lot.


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