The NFL's Punitive Substance Abuse Policy
> 10/19/2006 10:19:57 AM

Brett Favre, the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, spoke out yesterday to criticize the National Football League's treatment of recently suspended Packer's wide receiver Koren Robinson. After pleading not guilty to a DUI and fleeing police while already participating in the League's substance abuse rehabilitation program, Robinson was ordered to empty his locker and was forbidden from interacting with the Packer's organization for anything other than his alcoholism treatment. Favre did not pull any punches, and for those interested in football or addiction treatment, his words should be taken very seriously. From the Associated Press report:

"I don't like the way the league has, in my mind, turned their back on him," Favre said. "I'm not against banning him for the year. I'd love for him to play, but to boot him out, clean his locker out and say you can't have no contact with this team?"

"I'm no expert, but I would think you would want for people to reach out to him and be within an organization that can help him as opposed to saying, 'You're banned from the building. To make matters worse, we don't even want you over here, so go think about it and deal with it on your own,"' Favre said.

For many, Brett Favre, the 37-year-old quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, is the face of the NFL. A three time Most Valuable Player and record holder for consecutive games played, most hold the quarterback up as the NFL "good guy" exemplar. His career however, has not been spotless. In his early days after being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons Favre acquired a reputation as a partier and drinker. It was in fact one of the reasons that the Falcons sent him packing to Wisconsin only a year after using their second round draft pick on the QB. In 1996 Favre entered a treatment facility for an addiction to painkillers that he acquired while dealing with injuries. He spent 46 days there, before emerging and swearing not only to remain clean, but also to quit drinking altogether.

For those who have faced addiction and alcoholism, Favre can be viewed as a success story and an inspiration. The season after dealing with with his addiction issues the Packers would win Super Bowl XXXI. It is this very success that makes Favre's criticism this week of the NFL's substance abuse policy so important. Koren Robinson is a player with a history of drug and alcohol problems, and it is this very history for which he is now being punished.

In only his second year after being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks Robinson recorded what many thought was a breakout performance. Three years later he would be released by the Seahawks after violating the NFL's drug and alcohol policy for a 2nd time in May of 2005. He voluntarily entered a treatment facility for alcoholism, and was offered a second chance by the Minnesota Vikings. He excelled for the team, making his first Pro Bowl and winning the team's courage award, which was voted on by the team's players. In August of this year however, Robinson was arrested for driving under the influence and fleeing police while he was in training camp with the Vikings. The team promptly cut him, as they knew that he was likely facing a one-year suspension.

The Packer's general manager, Ted Thompson, drafted Robinson in 2001 when he was employed by the Seahawks. Despite the receiver's troubles, Thompson brought him on board to fill an injury hole at WR for the struggling Packers. Robinson played four games for Green Bay before the League ruled that he was forbidden from taking part in team activities or stepping foot at Lambeau Field for any reason other than treatment. Robison will serve three months jail for DUI convictions unrelated to this most recent charge.

Favre set the tone for the debate about the NFL's handling of Robinson's situation, and he could not have done a better job in singling out their punishment as opposed to trying to defend Robinson's behavior. Favre recognizes a lot of himself, a once troubled player, in Robinson and he takes umbrage with the fact that the NFL has taken it upon itself to hand down a suspension that not only forbids Robinson from playing, but forbids him from coming into contact with any part of the Packer's organization. This is an act that, when put under a microscope, looks to be beyond the purview of how a corporation would or should behave, and instead reeks of punitive and even vindictive action on the part of the League.

At one level, Robinson is certainly a representative of the NFL, and it is understandable that the League would want to use the threat of punishment to keep players from doing things that might harm the NFL's brand. That being said, keeping him off the field, docking his pay and limiting his involvement in League sponsored community service projects would all be fair options. By forbidding Robinson to have any contact with his team, the NFL is forcing, as Favre said, the Packers to turn their back on one of their players. Koren Robinson has a problem with alcohol. He is also a criminal, and he will pay for his crimes in a way determined by the courts. When the NFL refuses to support him as he seeks treatment, it is hard to see this as anything but punishment for the perceived black eye that he has brought on the league.

It is only when taken in context of the recent steroid allegations that the NFL's behavior reaches a level that might be called hypocritical. Robinson's problem is a personal one, as well as a criminal one, but it doesn't represent a threat to the NFL of anywhere near the magnitude of other performancing enhancing drugs would. This offense represents Robinson's third strike, but more importantly it represents a battle that he has waged on his own and failed to win. Instead of attempt to help him with his addiction, the League has thrown him out, locked the door and told him to clean up. As Favre, speaking with the wisdom of experience, suggests, the Packers could serve as a source of inspiration and support. Favre himself could help as a counselor and a leader, but the NFL has decided that's not to be.

In his criticism, Favre said that he was no expert, but his analysis of the NFL's behavior displays an understanding of and compassion for those who are trying to beat addition--more so, certainly then the NFL's own substance abuse policy. If the NFL truly wants to be the benevolent, family oriented league that they push in their commercials and PSA's with the United Way, then they need to begin by embracing their own employees and helping them get back onto the field, where they can again represent all the National Football League wants to be.


Thank you Brett for taking a stand on a subject that actually matters.
Posted by: Ian 10/20/2006 4:49:19 AM

Thanks Brett for having the balls to come out and say what needed to be said.
Posted by: Gil 10/24/2006 12:09:47 PM

Well done Brett, this needed to be said and I commend you.
Posted by: Wanda 12/3/2006 6:05:58 AM

You mean you want them to treat him like they treated you during your rehab for pill addiction, Mr. Favre? As in slap him on the wrist and pretend it never happened? Thats ridiculous, the guy is a multipule offender that needs help and rehabiliation, not to be surrounded week in and week out by dozens of players living on painkillers and drinking in stripclubs.
Posted by: Walnuts 2/28/2007 7:24:40 AM

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy