By Matthew Marczi
Ryan Clark said nothing wrong yesterday when he spoke on ESPN’s First Take about marijuana use within the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room. But if it’s his intention to return to that locker room in 2014, it would have been more beneficial to him if that opening sentence had simply read “Ryan Clark said nothing”.
First and foremost, I have no problem with Clark speaking what he believes to be the truth. Furthermore, I’m of the belief that the treatment of marijuana usage in this country is misguided, and that the NFL’s policy toward its usage is even more backward and short-sighted.
I believe it’s only a matter of time before it will be decriminalized nationally, and while the league as an institution is free to enforce whatever policies it chooses, the reality is that those policies as it pertains to marijuana usage are not only ineffective, but counterproductive.
I say this as a person with no horse in the race, having never partaken in or had interest in partaking in recreational drugs of any kind.
With that being said, it was highly inadvisable for him to speak so openly about the issue—unless he had no stake in the consequences.
Publicly acknowledging that players within the Steelers locker room are regularly violating the league’s substance abuse policy just looks bad on everybody.
It looks bad on the players who don’t have the self-control to abstain from an activity that is in violation of company policy, even if that policy is approaching archaic relevance and may be obsolete in the near future.
It looks bad on the organization as a whole that either looks the other way as its employees violate said policy or simply doesn’t have enough control over its employees to curb this rampant violation, even if the front office and owners don’t agree with the policy.
But it looks especially bad on Clark, who from the outside right now looks like he’s throwing his teammates under the bus on his way out the door as he gears up for his post-football career of, evidently, throwing his teammates under the bus.
Clark has always been very outspoken, and I have absolutely no problem with him expressing his thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics, regardless of whether or not I personally share his view on a given issue.
What I do take some issue with is his lack of consideration for the consequences of what he has to say. As somebody that supposedly has a great deal of respect for the Steelers organization, he put them in a bad light through his comments, and potentially opened them up to a league investigation and penalties.
Those comments roused enough attention to warrant comment by PR man Burt Lauten, reinforcing the organization’s support of the league’s policies regarding drug testing.
Every time he’s appeared on ESPN thus far this offseason, it has been as “Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark”. How much longer will that be the case? Perhaps he should just stay put, since it seems more likely at this point that he’ll be working for ESPN in 2014 than for the Steelers.
Maybe he’s already aware of that. Maybe that is what freed him to speak his mind so openly about the goings-on in the locker room. This isn’t like last offseason’s remarks. This time, there could be ramifications for the team.