There are three things that are big no-no’s in the NFL: domestic violence, excessive alcohol abuse and marijuana use (especially marijuana use). Cleveland Browns former star wide receiver, Josh Gordon, has been suspended for the entire 2014-2015 NFL season for his second violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, or in other words “Strike Two, Your Out!”
It was announced today that arbitrator, Harold Henderson, had upheld Fordon’s original suspension which had been under appeal after Gordon’s meeting with league officials on August 4, 2014. The season long suspension takes effect immediately and in order to play next season Gordon will have to apply for reinstatement. Along with the suspension, Gordon is banned from practice, meetings and club functions. During the 2013-2014 season, Gordon had served a two game suspension when he tested positive for marijuana use in 2013.
Gordon’s defense for the positive drug test was that it was the result of second hand smoke and that the first test result was only one nanogram per milliliter above the league’s tolerance mark and tested 1.37 below the tolerance mark with a second test. The decision follows months of waiting by the team. Last year, Gordon let league with 1,646 yards receiving (including two 200 yard back to back games) all in spite of the two game suspension.
With this news it brings to a close one more team controversy that will allow the team to now move forward with concentrating on Gordon’s replacement at the WR position. With Gordon’s departure the roster stands at 75 with 22 cuts yet to be made prior to opening day. Gordon’s departure leaves a gaping hole at that position with his 18.9 yard average a major offensive threat the Browns can ill afford to lose. Vying for the WR position are eight players including Charles Johnson, Travis Benjamin, Miles Austin, Andrew Harkins, Nate Burleson, Miles Austin, Taylor Gabriel, Marlin Moore and Willie Snead.
As word spread of the suspension, the Cleveland Browns released a statement by Gordon. "I'd like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Cleveland Browns organization and our fans," Gordon said in a statement. "I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing office didn't exercise better discretion and judgment in my case. I would like to sincerely thank the people who have been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging time, including my family, my agent, my union, my legal team, and the Cleveland Browns staff."
What is sad about this entire situation is that this is not the first, second, third or even fourth instance of Gordon tangling with “wacko tobacco” (there is also the matter of a pending drunk driving charge). Along with the two NFL failed tests are at least three failed drug tests that he had during his college career. While many consider marijuana a recreational drug with no lasting effects (two states have already decriminalized it and more are expected to) it is still the rule and one that has to be followed in the NFL. Hopefully, on the bright side, youngsters who follow the Cleveland Browns will realize that when you break the rules there are consequences that must be met and dealt with no matter who you are.
Due to the media frenzy concerning this issue, fans are also beginning to question the NFL’s suspension policy in regards to drug usage, alcohol consumption and domestic violence. Fans across the region are asking, “What is worse, getting high on grass, or beating your wife or girl friend unconscious?” Many are upset that Ray Rice was given only a two game suspension for domestic violence (when a video surface of him taking his unconscious wife off an elevator at a casino on February 15, 2014). Broncos kicker Matt Prater was suspended four games for violating terms of the league's alcohol program as a repeat offender while in the wings is a possible suspension of Carolina Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy who is awaiting a jury trial after an attack on his ex-girlfriend.
On the field, suspensions are regularly handed out. Washington safety Brandon Meriweather received a two game suspension for an illegal hit (his sixth violation of the rule).
Suspensions covering the use of illegal and performance-enhancing drugs were reached in agreement with the NFL Players Association while domestic violence suspensions are solely at the discretion of the Commissioner. While the NFL makes it clear that they will not tolerate domestic violence in its ranks, the two game suspension of Rice doesn’t seem to follow that train of thought.
It has been reported that three members of Congress have written to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stating that they feel that Rice’s suspension is too lenient. They are joined by numerous women and family advocacy groups who agree. Word is that the NFL will be looking into an increase in punishment for players involved in domestic violence. In defending his decision concerning Rice, Goodell explained that the punishment was for a first offense, while nationwide statists show that victims of domestic violence will not usually call for help until after the fifth incident.
"The first time with marijuana is different from the first time you are knocking your wife unconscious," said Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families and a former judge in New York City. "It's not what they did was such a small sort of slap on the wrist. Punishment to me, they should have suspended for a season at least and let him appeal. At least you send a message that this is not tolerated, that this matters."
Thus the controversy rages on. What is a fair punishment for the “three deadly sins of football” (alcohol, drugs and domestic violence) and should repeat offenders be dealt with more harshly? Lastly, was Josh Gordon dealt with fairly.