Will Weed Be Pro Sports' Next MVP?
Playboy Africa|November 2020
Many top-level athletes turn to cannabis for pain relief, despite the fact not all leagues permit its use. That could change soon
Kevin E.G. Perry

Sitting behind a desk covered in hemp rolling papers and glass jars full of bud, Al Harrington is explaining that he never thought he’d grow up to be a stoner. As a teenager in New Jersey, the six-foot-nine power forward had his heart set on an NBA career. Back then, before he was leading the line for teams including the Indiana Pacers, the Golden State Warriors and the New York Knicks, his grandmother would constantly remind him that chasing his basketball dream meant staying well away from illegal drugs.

“I remember my grandma kicking my aunts and uncles out of the house for even smelling like weed,” says Harrington, now 40 years old and the founder and CEO of his own Los Angeles–based cannabis brand, Viola. “I was taught it was a gateway drug. I’d see guys strung out on the corner, and they’d tell you that cannabis is what started them down that path. I was smart enough to know I didn’t want no part of that.”

It was a surprise, then, when Harrington made it to the NBA and realized that many of his teammates—70 to 80 percent, by his estimation—were using cannabis in secret. “I saw professional athletes smoking weed and being productive,” he says, raising his eyebrows. “We’re talking about the best players on my team.”

Cannabis remains on the NBA’s list of banned substances, but perceptions surrounding the drug are changing across professional sports. At the end of 2019, the MLB announced that it would be removing cannabis from baseball’s list of “drugs of abuse.” The NHL also no longer classifies cannabis as a banned substance. This March, the NFL followed suit when, as part of a new collective-bargaining agreement, the league agreed to do away with suspensions for football players who test positive for cannabis. Harrington believes the NBA won’t be far behind. “I think they’ll wait to see how it affects the NFL, and I don’t think it will affect the NFL at all,” he says. “The NBA can’t be the only league that doesn’t change their rules. They’ll look kinda crazy.”

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM PLAYBOY AFRICAView All

Tennis Pro Gabriella BONGIOVANNI You've Been Served!

We meet the international fashion model and former professional tennis player with a Master's in Science. When she's not modeling or on the tennis court Gabriella is growing her career in the Computer Science industry.

2 mins read
Playboy Africa
January 2021

SCENES FROM A DYSTOPIAN AMERICA COURTESY OF TRUMP

Coming soon to a city near you? As the coronavirus body count grows, armed but unidentified police are grabbing peaceful protesters off the streets of Portland

8 mins read
Playboy Africa
January 2021

The King of Chaos FACES THE END OF HIS REIGN

The president is scared out of his pancake makeup he’s going to lose the election

7 mins read
Playboy Africa
January 2021

You Don't Know KING NOIRE

A rapper, community organiser, educator and SexPert born in New York City and raised in New Jersey

6 mins read
Playboy Africa
January 2021

WEED WARRIOR: Cannabis Knows Best

In the first installment of a series of columns on his deep relationship with cannabis, our writer shares his origin story as a pot prophet—someone who lives in service to the leafy green goodness, from smuggling to smoking to selling

4 mins read
Playboy Africa
January 2021

Michelle YEE

Model @IHRTMICHELLEYEE

2 mins read
Playboy Africa
January 2021

Antoinette Love RANSOM

A creative, warm, and energetic mother of two with a background in fashion, marketing, small business, and investments.

6 mins read
Playboy Africa
January 2021

GERMAINE Love

Instagram @GERMAINELOVEX

3 mins read
Playboy Africa
January 2021

20 QUESTIONS With Halsey, the queen of New Americana

With Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, the queen of New Americana is more outspoken than ever. Here, she talks about donating $100,000 to Planned Parenthood and the virtues of the dad bod

10 mins read
Playboy Africa
January 2021

How Do I Achieve My Dildo Dreams?

Zoë Ligon, a.k.a. Detroit’s Dildo Duchess, offers her expertise on how to reinvent up our bedroom selves with sex toys

10 mins read
Playboy Africa
January 2021