WASHINGTON — The NFL has very clear rules on marijuana: it considers the plant a banned substance and forbids players from consuming it.
Obviously, that doesn’t mean all players abide by that rule; the number of suspensions the league administers for failed drug tests would agree. In the NBA, it’s a different story, a story in which the Cleveland Cavaliers found themselves playing a role after a loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Immediately following Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Mike Wise, a columnist for ESPN’s “The Undefeated,” ignited a mini firestorm by mentioning he’d smelled marijuana in the visiting locker room, a report he tagged with a snappy little joke about “pain control.”
Some fellow sports reporters felt Wise’s tweet crossed an unspoken boundary, and that by reporting exactly what he smelled, as he smelled it in real-time, he went around ethical protocols of seeking corroboration from team officials.
Redskins reporter Mike Jones of The Washington Post, a former colleague of Wise, provided some insight into this ethical dilemma during an appearance with The Sports Junkies on Wednesday, and, in doing so, shared some first-hand examples from the Redskins and Wizards beats.
“As a reporter, how would you handle a situation if you felt you smelled marijuana in the locker room?” Jones was asked.
“Um, I mean, it’s not the first time that it would have happened,” he replied. “Uh, I don’t know what was to be gained by it.”
“If you go into a locker room, though, and you don’t normally smell weed, and you walk in and it’s clearly weed,” Eric Bickel said. “I mean, obviously Mike [Wise] is being Mike, and he’s being a little zany there, and he’s letting you sort of infer on your own, but I don’t think it’s necessarily out of bounds to say, ‘This locker room by the way usually doesn’t smell like this and there’s a strong odor of weed.'”
“Yeah, but see… I mean… You can’t just throw,” Jones said, pausing to collect his thoughts. “Man, why are you guys trying to get me in trouble? I like Mike Wise.”
“So do we,” said Bickel, another former colleague of Wise. “Mike’s my neighbor!”
“A columnist, maybe they have more leeway,” Jones said. “As a reporter, I would have to be like, ‘Hey guys, why does it smell like…?’ I mean, I’d have to do more than just throw some stuff out there over Twitter. I would have to investigate it more, because, you know.”
“There were some other people from Cleveland saying that they didn’t smell it,” Jones went on to say. “So I don’t know. But again, what is there that’s gained by it? I don’t know. I mean, but hey, it’s an interesting nugget — I guess, part of the whole narrative.”
After some brief debate about whether marijuana is permitted in NBA locker rooms (it’s not, not even in California), Jones broke out his personal accounts of witnessing professional athletes and their methods of, um, pain control.
“I used to cover the Wizards and there were guys who, like, always smelled like weed,” he said, declining to divulge identities. “Names have been changed to protect the innocent.”
“Do you often smell that in the NFL locker room, or no?” Jones was asked.
“Um. There have been times,” he coyly replied. “This was like years ago, the guy’s not with the team anymore, but [he] drove past me with like a cloud of weed coming out of his car.”
“It wasn’t even a big-time, high-profile guy,” he went on to add. “A veteran. But, you know. Yeah.”
“Well, it’s well-known that in the league, once you pass a certain amount of tests, they’re not going to test you the rest of the way and you’re good,” Bickel said, to which Jones flatly responded, “Yep. Yep.”