Fans of basketball caught the first sign that the United States was about to become some frightening sickland of nothingness when the NBA announced a couple of weeks ago that it was suspending the season in an attempt to stave off this dastardly bug we all know as the coronavirus.
It was a total pulling of the plug, too, as players were yanked off the court and quarantined in Oklahoma City, while others in Sacramento weren’t even allowed out of the locker room to play the last game.
The only solace during these rotten times for everyone involved – and that includes players, fans, stadium workers, etc. – is that the suspension was only temporary and would last just about a month. But that date ended up being an overly ambitious projection, as the NBA has since said it could be late June, maybe longer, before America gets to kick back and enjoy some hoops.
The Trump Administration believes it could take the country 18 months or longer to recover from the virus. As painful as it is to admit, it is conceivable that the population could be stuck indoors for the rest of the year. Health officials with the CDC are reportedly trying to prevent the rest of the nation from catching this gnarly disease that has so far infected well over 200,000 people in 144 countries and killed nearly 9,000 and counting. So, you know, batten down the hatches, America.We’re going on lockdown.
Although this quarantine is tough on us all, at least we have the option of catching a buzz on the regular to help pass the time. Professional basketball players, however, do not have that luxury. The NBA drug policy strictly prohibits the use of marijuana in any form or fashion, and it conducts regular drug screens on players and coaching staff to make sure everyone is following the rules. Any player who tests positive for pot can incur fines, suspensions, and even be banned from the league.
And it’s not like defiant players can say, “Screw those fools at the NBA, I’m smoking weed anyway,” and then run out and start delivering pizzas to keep up with their lifestyle after they get canned. The average salary for a player in the NBA is $7.7 million, according to Basketball Reference. Some of these guys, like Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry, rake in upwards of $40 million a season. As you might imagine, they tend to hang onto these seasonal jobs as long as possible.
But now that players are holed up at home left to play video games, shoot wads of paper into trash cans, bored as all get out and wondering just when in the hell they’ll get back on the court, NBA officials are basically giving them a free pass to get high. League Commissioner Adam Silver, a man who is still apprehensive about allowing players to use marijuana, revealed that the league and NBPA have agreed to hold off on all drug testing until the 2019-2020 season resumes. If it ever does.
The NBA didn’t give a reason for pausing drug tests. It appears to be one of those deals where officials just made the hiatus known with the understanding that it could be business as usual come this summer. So, smoke ’em if you got ’em, boys, but be prepared to pee clean when the call comes down, letting everyone know that games are starting again. Although players are typically given no more than four tests per season, it’s probably not a stretch to suggest that one is coming as soon as this coronavirus fiasco is out of our lives. Presumably, not many players are too concerned about getting caught. Some reports estimate that somewhere between 50% and 85% of current players are using marijuana. These are the guys who evidently have the system figured out in a manner that lets them partake without getting spanked by the league.
The NFL took a more permanent stance on marijuana testing recently, completely eliminating the possibility of a suspension due to a positive result for THC. The league also raised the threshold for a negative test from 35 nanograms of THC to 150 – making it more difficult for players to fail them in the first place. The collective bargaining agreement, where all of the new pot rules were lined out, also included an interesting tidbit for those players who might get busted for weed. The league said, “violations of law for marijuana possession generally will not result in suspension.”
There were some concerns in the beginning that these changes might send the wrong message to younger fans, as well as cause trouble with the law, but it was sold as a way to improve player wellness.
All in all, it appears the powers of professional sports do not care if players test positive for pot, especially not at this time. They just don’t want any of them showing up with that godforsaken coronavirus.
TELL US, can you imagine not being about to smoke marijuana at a time like this?