In an interview with Vanity Fair, two-time Super Bowl champion and tight end Travis Kelce estimated that 50-80% of NFL players are smoking pot. Kelce’s estimate echoes similar numbers floated by a handful of former NFL players.
Kelce said that he was “so embarrassed” when a failed drug test that ended up getting him suspended from playing football for one season in Cincinnati in 2010 after testing positive for cannabis. His scholarship to the University of Cincinnati was also stripped. But with the NFL’s looser rules regarding cannabis, he assumes that his peers in the NFL are taking advantage of the newfound freedoms.
“If you just stop [smoking] in the middle of July, you’re fine,” he said. “A lot of guys stop a week before and they still pass [drug tests] because everybody’s working out in the heat and sweating their tail off. Nobody’s really getting hit for it anymore.”
The number is high. “He estimates that anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of players in the NFL use cannabis,” Vanity Fair summarized.
Kelce also discussed Super Bowl after-parties and growing up watching Saturday Night Live (SNL) just to see Chris Farley and Will Ferrell and other stars before hosting the show himself. Kelce made a rare athlete appearance hosting SNL, “an exclusive group that includes Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Peyton Manning,” Vanity Fair reports. His performance hosting the show in March was considered a hit.
Several other former NFL players have made similar statements. Former running back Ricky Williams, who attended the High Times 100 event in 2021, and weathered several drug-related suspensions during his tenure in the NFL, suggested that number is “at least 80 percent.”
Other former players say that number is higher: “I want to say about 89%,” retired tight end Martellus Bennett said on a Bleacher Report podcast. Bennett added that it’s better than the opioids other players are getting addicted to.
Plenty more former and current NFL players are investing in cannabis (or opening dispensaries) including Marshawn Lynch, Calvin Johnson, Jim McMahon, Kyle Turley, and Eben Britton. Former NFL All-Pro DeSean Jackson’s endorsement of Pineapple Wellness, a CBD company, was one of the most recent endeavors.
Kelce’s brother, Jason, is a center for the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2020, the National Football League (NFL) made a dramatic change to its drug testing policy thanks to a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) that was brokered between players and owners over the weekend.
Under the new CBA, players will no longer face suspensions if they test positive for cannabis, and the drug testing period will be limited to the first two weeks of training camp. The threshold for a positive cannabis drug test will now rise from from 35 to 150 nanograms of THC, according to ESPN.
“The idea is to focus the drug program on clinical care as opposed to punishment. Basically, if you test positive, your test gets reviewed by a board of jointly appointed medical professionals to determine whether you need any kind of treatment. The NFLPA deal memo also says that ‘violations of law for marijuana possession generally will not result in suspension.’”
Changes in policy are enabling players to smoke much more freely without fear of repercussions. Since 2021, players in the NFL are tested during only a two-week window at the beginning of training camp in the summer.