Retired defensive end Chris Long said Tuesday that when he said last week he used marijuana it shouldn’t be viewed as an admission and the reaction he has received has reinforced that “we have a long way to go” to overcome the stigma associated with the drug.
He said Tuesday he hates “the word admission because I don’t think you’re admitting to using something that harmless, personally.”
“I think the reaction has been interesting because even people that support you, it just shows the stigmatization is so ingrained. A lot of people like now are tweeting at me and every tweet is like, ‘hey man, are we gonna spark one up dude?’ I’m like, chill with the stereotypes.
“Marijuana is a part of people’s lives. It’s not their life. And obviously then you have the minority, which is less than 10 percent of the responses I’ve seen, which are like, ‘that stuff’s the devil,'” he said.
He said the buzz he received from the interview wasn’t a “good thing” because stories written about his comments buried the lead.
“The lead was not that I smoked marijuana. The lead was that I talked about trying to destigmatize it. And hopefully the NFL will hear some of their players talk — former or current, if you have the balls — to say, ‘something needs to change,'” he said.
The NFL and NFLPA announced new joint initiatives last week that could conceivably lead to a change in the league’s attitude toward marijuana as a pain management treatment. A joint pain management committee will conduct research into pain management and alternative therapies, which could lead the league down previously unexplored roads.
“I think Roger (Goodell) is a guy who’s trying to get out in front of things and hopefully this is no exception,” Long said. “We’re dealing with a generational sigma so you’re used to your fans being old guard people who bought into that stigma. I know some people struggle with it because marijuana, all the stereotypes are lazy, deviant people only smoke marijuana. Well, if NFL players who are active in their community, are hard-working, they go absolutely nuts on Sunday and they play the game with violence and energy for three hours, that kind of challenges your stereotype. And it challenges the stereotype of football.
“I think at the end of the day, I would hope that they would consider lifting that kind of arbitrary ban. You’ve got one test a year, if you get tested more than that it’s because you failed the test.”
Long emphasized that he’s not advocating marijuana just for pain management, saying: “some guys want to get high. And what’s worse? Downing a six-pack of beer or smoking a joint?”
“You get multifaceted benefits. If you have trouble sleeping, there’s a lot of guys that need help sleeping. It’s hard to turn your brain off after a 12-14 hour day of meetings and practice and abuse on your body and stress. Try coming home from a Sunday night game at 3 in the morning and not sleeping until the sun comes up,” he said.
As for deciding to end his NFL career, Long said it “came down to deciding between staying in Philly in a situation that wasn’t perfect — and they were real upfront with me — or starting over somewhere else” and he considered Philadelphia “a second home.”
“I joked that I could go play somewhere else and get carted off Week 3 and nobody cares. At least in Philly they’d give me a standing ovation or something. That’s kind of the things that creep into your head,” he said.