Cannabis and pain management. To advocates of the plant medicine, it’s a combination that is a no-brainer. To those who are still on the fence, it’s a question of dosage, federal illegality, and a sticky, confusing grey area of not enough empirical evidence yet an overwhelming abundance of anecdotes.

For current and former players in the NFL, it’s no secret that many of them would likely be in favor of the league allowing the use of cannabis – especially in place of harmful pills. With a new collective bargaining agreement in 2021 looming between the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), the league, and team owners, the question is: Will the NFL finally recognize cannabis as a legitimate medicine for pain management?

There are some high-profile NFL analysts claiming that the stigma of the NFL being anti-cannabis is all but over. But is that really the case? Will the league and the owners really make these kinds of concessions? A seemingly straightforward, fact-driven pro-cannabis ad was blocked by CBS during this year’s Super Bowl. Of course, it was ultimately the decision of the network, but NFL league officials said nothing. Players, however, had quite a bit to say on the matter.

And this was not the first time that former and current NFL players had something to say about the league’s substance policies. The most popular sport in the U.S. seemingly has no issue with their stars being prescribed potentially harmful opiate painkillers, yet holds steadfast on its stigma against cannabis medicine as a pain reliever.

It appears that the players really aren’t having any more of it. They aren’t going to continue to sit idly by while a myriad of their peers are diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). They are ready for a pain management alternative. The Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association, DeMaurice Smith, says he is ready to “go to war” for the players he represents.

“If we’re able to get a collective bargaining agreement done, that’s great. But all of these men went through a unilateral declared war on players in 2010 and 2011. I think it’s important for [NFL commissioner Roger Goodell] and I to have a wonderful open discussion, but he represents the owners, and we represent the players,” Smith said last year.

Will NFL players ultimately get what they deserve? Only time will tell. For employees of any kind job that takes such a toll on the human body, alternatives to harmful opioids should be made available, and it’s encouraging to see those who continue to fight for just that.