Times have changed for the way the NFL powers-that-be view marijuana. In May, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced it would study using cannabis as a pain management tool for athletes. It marked a stark departure from cannabis trailblazer Ricky Williams’ playing days, but the former running back is encouraged by the slow shift in perspective.
At SportsCon2019 in Dallas this past weekend, Williams was asked about how the NFL is handling cannabis in the Legalization era. While the NFL’s announcement of its new cannabis study is a start, he believes the NFL “is eventually going to catch up” to the general public’s view of marijuana.
“Most of the time I’m up here, I’m asked a question about marijuana. Any big corporation kind of has to be behind the times,” Williams said via ProFootballTalk. “It’s public opinion, and I think public opinion has started to shift that the NFL is obviously talking about it in the public. I just think our whole country has come a long way in the past 15 years.
“The fact that before I was shunned and considered a pariah, and now ESPN invites me to talk about cannabis on television,” he added. “We’re moving forward, and I think the NFL is eventually going to catch up.”
Williams’ stint in the NFL ranged from 1999 to 2011 where he racked up more than 10,000 rushing yards, though he was suspended at various points for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Since his retirement, Williams has embraced his role as cannabis advocate and launched his own line of marijuana products with his “Real Wellness” brand.
Players using marijuana is expected to be discussed in the NFL’s upcoming CBA negotiations. Perhaps Ricky Williams should be invited as an expert opinion on the benefits of professional athletes using cannabis to sustain their careers. Though stigma haunted him early on for his open marijuana use, he’s certainly found success now.