Barber shop: protest, NFL marijuana.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

It’s time for the barber shop. This is where we talk to interesting people about the news and what they think of. Join us this week – Kevin Blackistone. He is a professor of journalism at the university of Maryland and a frequent commentator on ESPN. He joined the studio in Washington, dc. Kevin, welcome back. Happy New Year.

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: thank you. So are you.

Martin: and our former NFL wide receiver and tight nate Jackson. His famous football memoir, “creeping up: the story of the NFL’s survival from the bottom of the pile,” is a best-seller. He joins us from NPR West in calfe, California, and it’s nice to talk to you again.

NATE JACKSON: I’d be happy to talk to you. thank you

Martin: Natalie weiner is a staff member of the digital sports news media bleach report. She joined us from our studio in New York. Natalie, it’s nice to have you with us.

NATALIE WEINER: thank you.

Martin: so the NFL playoffs start today. So we decided to keep the NFL focused. No, we’re not talking about fractions. We want to talk about some of the big issues around this sport, whether you like it or not, it’s the biggest audience rating on TV. So, you know, in this sense, this is an important cultural institution.

I want to start with this week’s news about football. This is the government’s decision to trump to reverse the Obama administration to federal prosecutors, the guiding principles of the legal marijuana and the participation of expected to par – in addition to the narrow circumstances, such as the cartel activity or doubt will sell to minors. So we’re going to have more in this program later. But I raised the question because cannabis is a big problem in professional sports, including the NFL.

So Kevin Blackistone, I’ll start with you. What state is this?

BLACKISTONE: this year, the NFL and NFL player alliance NFLPA began talking about using marijuana as an option for opioid therapy for NFL players. If there’s anything more amazing than this, I don’t know – more than watching NFL players put their bodies back in place every week for a season. It’s like walking – it’s like walking wounded. So this is a real problem.

In fact, there was a player early last year – in the summer, the former New York air jet player filed a lawsuit against the justice secretary, the justice minister, and he might start to move in that direction. So this is a big problem, because there are a lot of players who are proving that marijuana is doing something to their success in terms of dealing with pain.

Martin: really? But it is still banned in most professional sports leagues…

BLACKISTONE: it’s banned. It is…

Martin:…… Whether the sports franchise is allowed in the country.

BLACKISTONE: that’s right. It’s absolutely forbidden. That’s what the NFL has been saying for a long time, and it’s not about it. But it changed the tune. It changed the tune in 2017. So, you know, I look at it the other way, because I think it’s an attack on black male athletes, because…

Martin: why?

BLACKISTONE: well, because they make up almost two-thirds or more of the NFL. They play the biggest role in collisions and injuries, because they play a role in technical positions, and they have to do so much one-on-one hit on defense. For me, it was an attack on their livelihood. I think that’s the real focus of the NFL and NFLPA.

Martin: nate, you’ve lived here. I mean, you’ve written it, and you’ve lived it. You have become an advocate for medicinal marijuana, partly to control pain. I just want to talk and ask you, what is the attitude of the players to the league? Do you see – I want to know if you think the trump administration’s position on this will affect the dialogue about this?

Jackson: I think trump’s administration will influence the coalition’s view. But individual teams and players themselves – they will use what they need to stay on the pitch. As Kevin says, they put Humpty Dumpty back together every week. They know what works for their bodies. So it is said that the alliance and the alliance will discuss this issue. That’s good. They only listen to players once.

But I do want to overturn Kevin’s assertion that the player injured more than the line player. The line runner is the center point found by the CTE – 111 of the 112 brain slices are cut open. Most of these players are offensive and defensive wingers. This is the center of the holocaust in this area. And these people need to get the drugs that are right for them.

We are all thinking of the opiate scourge. After playing, four times the NFL’s players themselves could lead to opioid addiction. So I think it’s a kind of listening. But for now – as long as it’s a federal government illegal drug, I don’t think the alliance itself will change policy. However, there is a difference between recreational and medicinal USES. My belief is that footballers are using their drugs.

Martin: nate, I’ll talk a little bit more in a minute. So talk – wait a minute.

Jackson: ok.

Martin: I want to bring Natalie into this. Just – Natalie, what do you think of that?

WEINER: I mean, I think the biggest benefit of the NFL is that the use of medical marijuana and marijuana is more widely used, because it’s clear that CTE is critical to their long-term health. If the alliance wants to survive, it needs to be addressed. And there’s a lot — there’s a very preliminary study showing that CBDs, cannabinoids can be used to help prevent brain damage. So if this is true, then the NFL needs to invest in this, because it means football – you know, a serious problem with football can be solved.

Oct 29, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long (56) puts his arm around strong safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) during an anthem protest before action against the San Francisco 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Martin: let me talk a little more. Nate, I’m coming back to you. I mean, this is something you write very touching. You know this season has been worse or worse than usual. Is that how you feel? And that’s one of the reasons for this — of course, at the human level, this is an important question.

But others see it as one of the reasons for the downgrade – some people find it too ugly, especially when you understand the long-term consequences of these injuries. I mean, obviously, President trump has a different view of this, and we’re going to talk about the protests in a minute. But, Nate, what do you think about that? I mean, do you feel it — will it get worse?

WEINER: I’m not sure if it’s getting worse, or our attention more and more focused on it, because the TV production capacity now allows us to every small blow to enlarge, and see to catch these people or unconscious, or the fence, when they hit their response soon, however, in the past, in front of the screen you are not the sort of high definition of reality to watch it. I think the NFL knows that. So they try to manage it.

They had an injured player’s tent nearby – they pulled him into the tent and pulled the tent over. I don’t think it will help to make some transparent guidelines for the NFL. It looks like, you know, they’re trying to create an illusion that it’s not as dangerous as it is. But we’ve been talking about the dangers of professional football for more than 100 years. We always seem to come back to the game. So I think we can adjust the game to make it safer. But danger and violence are what some people like.

Martin: well, let me go to the protests. Natalie, I will come to you first, for, as I said, you know, some people argue that, you know, this season’s injury – I mean, like Aaron Rodgers, good luck, Andrew Ryan shah wazir, this is especially – this is a legitimate, but he is still recovering from – is one of the reasons for the rating really down.

Others, like President trump, say it was a knee-jerk protest. A lot has been written about this. So, Natalie, I’m going to look for you first, because you’ve already written it. I mean, first of all, what is the status of these protests? At the end of the day, will you say they are successful?

WEINER: I mean, it just depends on who you’re talking to, and it’s completely different. Personally, I think they are successful. Some players protested after the regular season. I just wrote – a player on his knees, raised his fist and players, players on the bench during the national anthem – is to send a message, or the police violence and systemic injustice is unacceptable, you know? I think they continue to reiterate the fact that this may seem redundant. Or maybe President trump might look like his comments to derail things, and you know these comments are meant to get people to misunderstand the truth. But at the end of the day, fans are still saying these words – police brutality, system injustice.

At least, even if they try to deny it, I know the players have no opinion, but they still say it’s not racist, you know? So I think they’re keeping those conversations urgent and happening. I think it’s very important.

Martin: what do you think, Kevin?

BLACKISTONE: it depends on what metrics you use. If the players to use metrics, the truth of the matter is, in fact involved in the protests to play only a small percentage of players involved in the protests in the home, in addition to stump speech in Alabama after – in which trump spat at the player’s mother, let them stand up.

Then there is the negotiation between some players in the league on social justice issues or some contribution from BBS. It’s going to be around $100 million. And that’s just the fact that we’ve been talking about this whole year. It’s still a problem. So I think in the long run, I think it helps. I think that’s good.

Martin: nate, soon, we only have about 30 seconds left. What do you think?

Jackson: yes. I think it’s bound to cause some ripples in the league. I know the owner doesn’t like it. See players that do well this year, therefore, it will be interesting, how many of them will come back to the list next year, because I know that the coach and the owner will discuss how to deal with the problem of active players more political. They want all their attention to be distracted. I know the players want to play, but they want their voices to be heard. So it’s very difficult.

Martin: well, thank you so much for making your voice heard within a year and more. Thanks to Nate Jackson, Kevin Blackistone and Natalie Weiner. Thank you very much for talking with us.

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