The Fallout Of Adrian Peterson's Admission To Smoking Pot

Written by  Cedric Hopkins November 05, 2014
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On October 8, the Montgomery County District Court in Texas ordered Adrian Peterson to submit to a drug test, which he did. During that court-ordered drug test, Peterson told the guy performing the drug test (Justin Whitehead) that he “smoked a little weed.”

Now that’s just a special brand of stupid. You tell the guy collecting your urine, who you know is going to report back to the prosecutor and judge, you smoked weed. The. Guy. Collecting. Your. Urine. 

The Texas prosecutor tried to capitalize on Peterson’s stupidity by filing a motion to set aside Peterson’s bond. Ultimately, the court didn’t discipline Peterson for his statement.

But the lingering question is, will the NFL discipline Peterson because of his admission to smoking pot? This question has become crucial now that Peterson has wrapped up a significant portion of his legal proceedings by accepting a plea agreement.

The NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy, Section 2.3 controls Peterson’s admission:

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The first sentence in Section 2.3 indicates that players who are convicted of or admit “to a violation of law relating to use [of marijuana]...are subject to appropriate discipline as determined by the Commissioner.”

At first glance, Section 2.3 applies to Peterson because he admitted to smoking marijuana, which is a violation of the law.

The issue with Peterson’s admission, however, is that the statement wasn’t made under oath and not in court while accepting a plea agreement or entering some other diversionary program. The admission appears to be an off the cuff remark made outside of court but while performing a court-ordered function.

Because Peterson’s admission was not made in the context of the listed situations in Section 2.3, the NFL is not likely to use it to punish him.

The spirit of Section 2.3 encompasses the situation where a player is charged with a crime but makes certain admissions in court or with another diversionary program in order to receive a reduced charge or enter a diversion program. In other words, the league doesn’t want a player to avoid punishment just because he avoids a conviction.

In Peterson’s case, the admission was made outside of court and him making the statement wasn’t a prerequisite to him entering a diversion program or accepting the plea agreement. In fact, the judge found that the admission—as proposed by the prosecutor in the motion to set aside Peterson’s bond—was insufficient to warrant Peterson’s arrest and incarceration.

The same must hold true for Goodell—Peterson’s admission is insufficient, without a failed drug test, to warrant discipline. Although some may argue that the context in which Peterson’s admission was made gives it sufficient reliability and therefore, is probably true.

But in criminal court, you can’t be convicted based purely on your statement; there must be corroborating, independent evidence that you committed the crime. For example, if you’re drunk, standing outside of your vehicle and a cop pulls up to the scene (without having seen you drive) and you tell him that you were driving, the prosecutor couldn’t convict you of DUI. It’s called corpus delicti.

I know the NFL isn’t a courtroom and the rules of criminal procedure don’t apply. But I also believe that a statement like the one Peterson made shouldn’t invoke the two-game check penance required by the Substance Abuse Policy.

But like Patrick Mayo (@ThePME) tweeted yesterday: “The NFL does what it wants. That needs to be taken into consideration.”

But let's answer Daniel and Red's questions:

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If Goodell determines Peterson’s admission warrants discipline, under the new Substance Abuse Policy, he will get docked two game checks because it would be Peterson's first drug offense. Unless, of course, Goodell uses the same calculator he did when he added up Josh Gordon’s violations. If that’s the case, it’s anybody’s guess how many violations Peterson has or how long he’ll be suspended or how much he’ll be fined.

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Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins Bio

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).

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