Home Culture NBA Coach Steve Kerr Talks About Marijuana Use, Sets Off Media Firestorm

NBA Coach Steve Kerr Talks About Marijuana Use, Sets Off Media Firestorm


It’s not often that every sports show and sports website in the United States are all talking about marijuana at the same time, but that’s exactly what Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr has caused by his recent comments about his medical cannabis use.

“I guess maybe I can even get in some trouble for this, but I’ve actually tried it twice during the last year and a half, when I’ve been going through this chronic pain that I’ve been dealing with,” Kerr said on a podcast dedicated to the Warriors last Friday. “[After] a lot of research, a lot of advice from people and I have no idea if maybe I would have failed a drug test. I don’t even know if I’m subject to a drug test or any laws from the NBA.”

Maybe “trouble” isn’t the right word, but he’s certainly generated a lot of controversy and feedback. “I think our rhetoric on it has to be very careful because you have a lot of kids where I’m from that’s reading this, and they think [marijuana use is] cool,” Phoenix Suns Coach Earl Watson told ESPN on Saturday. “It’s not cool. Where I’m from, you don’t get six fouls to foul out. You get three strikes. One strike leads to another. I’m just being honest with you, so you have to be very careful with your rhetoric.”

It seems telling kids the truth about cannabis would be more important than worrying whether or not it seems “cool,” but that’s why other people shouldn’t be making these decisions for those who use cannabis, for any reason.

“And for me, I’ve lived in that other life [of crime and drugs],” Watson continued. “I’m from that area, so I’ve seen a lot of guys go through that experience of using it and doing other things with that were both illegal. And a lot of those times, those guys never make it to the NBA, they never make it to college, and somehow it leads to something else, and they never make it past 18.

“So when we really talk about it and we open up that, I call it that slippery slope. We have to be very careful on the rhetoric and how we speak on it and how we express it and explain it to the youth.”

So Earl Watson has seen a lot of guys start smoking weed then go on to other things then never make it the NBA and die by the age of 18? I find that hard to believe, but let’s say he has seen a few instances of that in his life. Did that happen because an NBA coach made blazing up seem cool? Did it happen because adults just weren’t tough enough with their “rhetoric?” Considering the fact that the “gateway theory” about marijuana has been thoroughly debunked, it’s hard to see how one thing would lead to the other.

Others have weighed in as well, including one of Kerr’s players, Klay Thompson, who was arrested for marijuana possession in college. “But not recreation use,” Thompson said, supporting his coach’s medical use. “That should not be of its use ever, but there’s obviously a medicinal side to [marijuana] that people are finding out have benefits, especially people in really high pain.”

“I’ve never been a guy who has done it, period,” said another of Kerr’s players, Draymond Green. “So, I can’t say that I know much about it, but from what I hear from whether it’s football guys, I think a lot of them do it because of all the pain that they go through.

“And when you read Steve’s comments, it makes a lot of sense. When you look at something that comes from the earth, any vegetable that comes from the earth, they encourage you to eat it. So, I guess it does make a little sense as opposed to giving someone a manufactured pill. If something takes your pain away like some of these pills do, it can’t be that good for you.”

Kerr himself expounded on his comments the day after the media firestorm erupted. “I was a little surprised at the fact it became kind of a big deal,” Kerr said. “The conversation was really about pain relief in professional sports. The context of our conversation and my response to your question was about how professional sports should handle pain relief for players. I thought it was … interesting. Because of the way the world works, the way the media works, what is a very serious conversation about pain relief turns into the headline ‘Kerr smokes pot’. So, I guess that’s the world we live in. That’s fine. But I’m actually kind of glad it became an issue. It’s a very important issue to talk about. Having gone through a tough spell over the last year with my own recovery from back surgery, and a lot of pain, I had to do a lot of research. You get handed prescriptions for Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet. NFL players, that’s what they’re given. The stuff is awful. The stuff is dangerous. The addiction possibility, what it can lead to, the long-term health risks.”

Kerr said that even though medical marijuana didn’t really work for him – hence only 2 attempts in the last year and a half – it’s important that the discussion be had, not only about marijuana but also about prescription drugs. “I think it’s important to talk about it, because, again, it’s all about perception. At first, I’m disappointed it didn’t work. I really wanted some relief, and I didn’t get it. But having done the research, it was well worth the try. But I think it’s going to be very important going forward. I’m always struck, whenever I’m home on the couch watching a sporting event, some drug commercial comes, and they show these happy people jumping in a lake, rowing a boat, and then you just wait for the qualifier: ‘Side effects include suicidal thoughts and possible death.’ And you’re like, ‘This is insane!’ It’s insane. It really is. And, yet, the stigma is not on those drugs being prescribed day and night to anybody that wants them. It’s on something that’s relatively harmless. The conversation is important.”

The part that many people seem to missing about this whole incident it that it shouldn’t matter what NBA coaches, players or anyone else thinks about someone using marijuana for medical or recreational reasons. Why do we care that Klay Thompson doesn’t think recreational legalization is a good idea or if Steve Kerr smokes a joint because his back hurts?

To be fair, all of these people were just responding to questions from the press, but that’s exactly the point. The fact that we are still discussing this and people’s opinions are being solicited about it highlights the problem. The continuing controversy about medical marijuana use in the NFL does as well.

The problem is it’s 2016 in the United States and we are still discussing whether or not someone should be able to treat their pain with a natural substance. And if we finally manage to agree that they should for medical reasons, we still get to argue over whether they should be able to for any reason.

But as Coach Kerr pointed out, the conversation must be had so it’s important that we are getting to it. We shouldn’t have to decide on whether marijuana is legal or not, but we do have to decide and it’s important that cannabis users win that argument.