Former NFL defensive end Chris Long said he's disappointed by the way a discussion he had last week about cannabis use was received. The two-time Super Bowl Champion thinks many people have missed the point.
"The lead was not that I smoked marijuana. The lead was that I talked about trying to destigmatize it. And hopefully the NFL will hear some of their players talk—former or current, if you have the balls—to say 'Something needs to change,'" Long told ESPN.
In an interview on 'The Dan Patrick Show' last week, Long said he consumed cannabis "on a regular basis" to help him cope with "the stresses of day-to-day NFL life."
Long says the reaction to his statement has been terrible. Some people told him that using marijuana for any reason was a poor decision, and even people who support legalization rehashed tired cannabis stereotypes while talking to him about his controversial stance.
"I think the reaction has been interesting because even people that support you, it just shows the stigmatization is so ingrained. A lot of people are tweeting at me and every tweet is like, 'Hey man, are we gonna spark one up dude?' I'm like, chill with the stereotypes."
Those kinds of stereotypes and stigmas have held the NFL back from allowing players to use medical marijuana, according to Long. As a result, many athletes find themselves abusing potentially lethal opioid painkillers and alcohol instead.
"What's worse: downing a six-pack of beer or smoking a joint?" asked Long.
He added that cannabis would not only help players deal with pain but also help reduce stress and improve quality of sleep.
"You get multifaceted benefits. There's a lot of guys that need help sleeping. It's hard to turn your brain off after a 12- to 14-hour day of meetings and practice and abuse on your body and stress."
With the NFL's recent commitment to studying cannabis as a pain management treatment, Long feels confident that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will reform the leagues cannabis policies.
"I think Roger is a guy who's trying to get out in front of things and hopefully this is no exception," Long said.
But until that happens, Long looks like he's going to continue to push the issue and fight for the destigmatization of cannabis.