Musician and cannabis enthusiast Snoop Dogg is facing an online backlash over a social media post designed to highlight the disparate dangers between marijuana and alcohol.
Pot advocates have long touted its safety relative to booze and other drugs, of course, but Snoop ran afoul by using a legendary but troubled former English soccer player to illustrate that comparison.
The meme posted Wednesday on Snoop Dogg’s Instagram account showed four photos: two of the iconic West Coast rapper and two of Paul Gascogine, a decorated soccer player who starred for the England national team and clubs like Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur in the 1980s and 1990s.
The two photos of Gascogine, placed under a caption that read “Alcohol Abuse,” show him at age 20 and 47 with clear signs of physical deterioration evident. Under the caption “Marijuana Abuse” are a pair of photos of Snoop at the same two ages with no major differences in his appearance.
As brilliant as he was as a player, Gascoigne’s life has been equally turbulent off the field. He entered therapy in the late 1990s, while still a player, to treat his alcoholism—the first of several stints in treatment. He has struggled to maintain his sobriety since then. In 2008, Gascoigne was rushed to the hospital after an apparent drug overdose. He was arrested for drunk driving in 2010 after getting behind the wheel while more than four times over the legal limit, for which he was warned that he could face jail time. A day after that court appearance, he was arrested for possession of cocaine.
In addition to his substance abuse, Gascoigne has also battled mental illness, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the early 2000s.
That tumultuous history prompted many to decry Snoop Dogg’s post and express sympathy for Gascogine, who is known to English soccer fans as “Gazza.”
“This has much more to do with mental health than abuse,” said one Instagram commenter. “It’s actually quite sad you’re using him as a scapegoat.”
The British broadcaster Piers Morgan also came to Gascogine’s defense.
“This is nasty,” Morgan tweeted Thursday. “Shame on you @SnoopDogg.”
Gascoigne appeared to express his gratitude for the solidarity in a Twitter post of his own on Thursday that included a photo of himself with stickers of tears on his cheek.
“Wow thanks so much re your tweets loved them…as you can see a few tears…but honestly I love you’s guys be good enjoy the rest of the day huge hugs from GAZZA,” he said.
Gascogine is widely considered to be one of the most talented English soccer players of all time. He made 57 appearances for country—including one against Scotland in the 1996 European Championships highlighted by Gascoigne scoring one of the most memorable goals of all time.