My search for a concrete link between anti-cannabis groups and the NFL did not yield any “touchdown” level connections, but it did stir some thoughts. The NFL’s stance on marijuana is hard to pin down, though no interpretation exists that convincingly shows they are indifferent to its use. I began to think about who the NFL doesn’t want to piss off — whose money they are so terrified of losing.
One sponsorship group that would undoubtedly have an issue with a league that embraced cannabis immediately comes to mind: beer companies. These companies, like Anheuser-Busch, have had long standing advertising agreements with the league. When it comes to recreational intoxication, people tend to lean toward either cannabis or alcohol.
That isn’t to say that there is no cross over whatsoever. I love to get stoned and then have a glass of really good wine, craft beer or, my favorite, absinthe. But I honestly don’t remember the last time I was just plain drunk and if I had to choose only one for the rest of my life, the decision is made with zero deliberation: cannabis.
Part of any good and successful product advertising campaign is to sell a lifestyle, not the product. Drinking, as a lifestyle, just doesn’t mesh well with smoking weed, as a lifestyle. Once weed becomes fully legal (it’s well on its way to happening), I’d bet my house that some of the alcohol/beer barons are going to buy into the market heavily. It’ll be fun to see just how fast the NFL embraces cannabis once the “bud” in Budweiser has a whole new meaning.
I love football, I make no secret of that. But the NFL is run/owned by a handful of billionaires who care little for player safety. They aren’t against weed because they think that doing so makes them upstanding citizens — they are fearfully beholden to their sponsors who don’t want an NFL that accepts cannabis.
They care about money. Don’t believe me? Then why is the NFL technically a non-profit organization, exempt from paying income tax?
As per usual with this kind of situation, the regulations will change with the flow of dollar signs. You can verify this facet by looking no further than how the league handled the recent domestic violence infractions involving Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. The league took a largely “wait-and-see” approach to the cases until they thought they might lose money when some of their corporate sponors like Nike and Castrol threatened to pull their sponsorship contracts unless the league acted right.
In the aforementioned cases of domestic violence and even in the case of the LA Clippers NBA team whose former owner, Donald Sterling, was secretly recorded giving an epically racist diatribe, we can see that corporate ad money has a lot of sway over what actions the league does or doesn’t take. Racism and domestic violence are deplorable and I’m happy the league at least kinda tried to do the right thing.
But with cannabis, they aren’t going to get a lot of meaningful sponsor backlash by ignoring the pot market and consumers. Off-camera pressure from alcohol corporations seems par for the course when you consider how much money sways minds in this country.
It’s a two fold issue. On one hand, there is nothing really to lose at this point for the NFL if they simply allow the status quo to perpetuate. On the other, alcohol is so tied to sports culture that I whole-heartedly believe its purveyors hold significant influence over the NFL and are actively slapping the NFL’s hand away from the cannabis cookie jar.