NFL players just began the voting process of whether or not to accept the new collective bargaining agreement. And as they have a week to vote, different aspects of the CBA are being revealed.
According to Pro Football Talk, one such change to the CBA would be that players would only be subject to fines for positive drug tests for substance abuse. As of right now, a positive drug test would result in a four-game suspension for the first offense. Potentially, the first failed test wouldn’t result in a fine at all. Instead, a multi-stage intervention program would be enacted where the player would enter a two-stage system and depending on the results of an evaluation or a future failed test will determine where the NFL goes from there.
If a player fails a test while in Stage 1 or the evaluation recommends it, a player can move up to Stage 2. There, a treatment plan is required and each positive test carries a bigger fine. The fine increases until the fourth positive test, whereas a player is fined three game checks per positive test after that.
There is technically a suspension still in place but that only happens if the player refuses to undergo testing or a treatment program in Stage 2, beginning with the fourth positive test. The fourth positive test results in a three-game suspension and goes up from there. As long as a player is still seeking treatment, they can only be fined for failing a test.
It’s certainly a step in the direction of those who believe decriminalization and treatment is the way to go to make people actually change. Many will feel these penalties are too lenient and might result in more drug use if the risk of suspension goes away and is no longer a deterrent. But in addition to the public scrutiny of failing a test as well as being fined game checks, players are still getting some sort of punishment.
Not to mention, you can make an argument that if someone actually has a drug addiction problem, a suspension isn’t exactly going to do much. In fact, for some people, an argument can be made that if a player is suspended they may have more free time to take more drugs and lose that structure of playing football every week. Every person handles addiction treatment in different ways and this is going to give the NFL more options to handle that.