You might not have heard of LaVon Brazill, but no need to give much thought to Brazill except for one purpose: to laugh at his stupidity. And he’s plenty stupid, too.
A man must be stupid to throw away a $570,000 contract because he can’t keep away from marijuana. Brazill, a wide receiver, lost that contract and perhaps more when the Indianapolis Colts cut him rather than watch him go through another NFL suspension.
His latest suspension was for one year, a much stiffer penalty than the four games Brazill, a sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft, sat out in 2013 for an earlier violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
“He knew that he could be randomly tested up to 10 times a month … following his first suspension,” Colts writer Mike Wells wrote in an article for ESPN.com. “He failed to avoid the temptation.”
When it comes to illegal substances or alcohol, temptation remains a problem too many Black athletes can’t resist. At every turn, we hear reports about some other athlete who has picked marijuana or margaritas over money, no matter how many zeroes follow the numeral on his paycheck.
We’ve seen that in men who make more than Brazill. Just last week, cops in North Carolina pulled over Josh Gordon, the troubled wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, for reportedly driving under the influence.
Like Brazill, Gordon already had an NFL strike against him, but that didn’t seem to matter. He faced another suspension for failing a drug test before his DUI.
Substance abuse is a problem the NFL seems slow to address. The league might as well be a Walgreen’s or a CVS, although the NFL drugs of choice are of the illegal and not the prescription kind.
The NFL has wrestled with substance abuse for decades. Some of the 1,300 retirees in their lawsuit against the league claimed team physicians fueled their abuse of painkillers. Alcohol and weed do ease a man’s pain. They also kill a man’s career.
So what does the latter tell us about marijuana and alcohol? Is the allure of a pain-free life what drives pro athletes like Brazill and Gordon to abuse these substances?
The fact is their abuse started before the NFL. Marijuana and alcohol have long been the substances of choice on college campuses, and more than a few athletes have brought their abuse of these to the NFL with them. It didn’t matter to them that abusing either was destroying their careers.
We all know that the shelf life for an NFL athlete is short. He must earn as many dollars as he can before his career gives way to time, injury or someone who is just younger and cheaper.
Statistics tell us that few players will spend a decade in the league, which means they have to look at life after the cheering ends. And when the cheering does end, so do the six- and seven-figure paychecks.
A man can secure his future if he manages those paychecks well. But if he doesn’t, he can become another hard-luck story about an athlete who had the money and spent it faster than he made it.
We shed no tears for these men. Not that we’re absent sympathy for those who have substance-abuse problems. We want them to get help; we don’t want them to be a statistic about wasted talent.
But they are such statistics, and that’s what bothers us more than anything else. For these men had more than most — the adulation, the fame and the big bank. None of it was enough.
If it were, men like Brazill and Gordon would not light another joint. They wouldn’t pour that last glass of rum and Coke, and even if they did, they’d call a cab to take them home. What they would not do is what Brazill and Gordon did; they would not put in jeopardy all they spent their adolescence working to achieve: a professional career that pays them handsomely.
If that’s not utter stupidity, what is?
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photos from left: Joe Robbins/Getty Images, David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images)