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NFL Warns Members Not to Endorse CBD – So Why Are Retired Players Pushing It?

Before Rob Gronkowski returned to the NFL, he was all about CBD Oil and how well it works. The NFL is not a big fan, but it seems weird so many retired players find success with it.

Rules around CBD are changing all the time and at all levels. It’s confusing for the layperson to keep up with regulations in the States and at a federal level, but athletes have even more rules to navigate. 

The National Football League has been experiencing some trouble with cannabidiol in recent times. Where some sporting leagues like MMA have begun to allow the use of CBD, others are more resistant to it, and this includes the NFL.

Recently, the NFL Players Association said that it would not suspend its players for using CBD or testing positive for THC if they use CBD products. However, the NFL Players Association has also stated that players, coaches, and other employees must not endorse cannabinoid products. Despite this, a handful of retired players are fighting for better CBD rights in sports. 

Let’s find out why so many people are advocating for CBD in the NFL.

A Rocky History: The NFL and CBD

Until recently, the NFL wanted nothing to do with CBD whatsoever. Players were actively discouraged from using it, as the League seemed to favor opioid painkillers over cannabinoids. Athletes currently playing in the League felt that it was not worth the risk to use cannabinoids, though a handful of retired players were becoming vocal about using it.

In 2019, the League finally caved and announced a review into cannabinoids. The review came to a close in January 2020, when the NFL agreed to no longer suspend players for using CBD. Nevertheless, it continues to push opioids instead of CBD for players with sustained injuries. 

Stopping suspensions has been a small step forward, but it is a step nonetheless! 

The NFL’s Current Stance on Cannabinoids

The NFL and CBD may have got off to a rocky start, but things are slowly changing. As it stands, players will not be suspended for using CBD. Similarly, if a player tests positive for THC as a result of using CBD products, they will not be suspended for drug use.

Unsurprisingly, using THC outright is still banned. As such, players cannot smoke cannabis or use high-THC products. Since THC is intoxicating and can cause psychoactive, disorienting effects, it’s not shocking that this substance remains banned, and it’s likely to stay that way. 

CBD, however, is non-intoxicating. It is thought to have several positive effects that could benefit NFL players, including pain-killing properties. Nevertheless, the NFL can’t approve CBD oil for NFL players due to a lack of research.

Current evidence is promising, but the majority of the research on CBD has been done on animals. Although the World Health Organization reports that CBD is generally well-tolerated and has a low potential for addiction, the NFL feels that there is not enough evidence to fully endorse CBD.

All things considered, the League’s stance is pretty fair. As more research emerges – as it is doing all the time – sporting organizations may change their mind in the future. For now, some retired players are fighting their case already.

Against the Grain: NFL Players Who Are Fighting for CBD

A variety of retired NFL players, who are no longer subject to the League’s rules, are pushing for wider CBD use for the players. The sad truth is that an overwhelming number of players become addicted to opiates even beyond retirement. American football is a high-contact sport that causes a variety of injuries, often severe. Opioids are recommended to get rid of the pain, but they can be addictive and have negative side effects.

Many of these players have argued that CBD gives them the same relief but is less addictive and gives them fewer side effects. The list of players includes Rob Gronkowski and Terrell Davis. In fact, Davis has even launched a CBD sports drink called DEFY. He’s tapping into a popular market of CBD edibles with this offering. Meanwhile, other players are investing in existing CBD companies.

Advocates of CBD claim that it can help NFL players in numerous ways, including pain recovery, sleep and rest, and performance anxiety. If this is true, then cannabinoids could genuinely be a viable alternative to prescription meds for NFL athletes and other sportsmen. The retired players arguing in favor of CBD seem to agree that the effects are worth it.

For now, the NFL is not entirely on board. However, with continued research and a push from retired players, we may see a change in the future.

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at

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