Many Americans, including more than six in ten sports fans, think marijuana should continue to be banned in professional sports, regardless of state or federal laws which have legalized the substance. 62% of adults nationally believe the ban should stay in place. 36% of Americans think the ban on marijuana should be lifted, and 2% are unsure. Similar proportions of sports fans share these views.
This HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. The current edition of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel explores the use of marijuana in the NFL. The program replays multiple times on HBO and will also be available on HBO ON DEMAND and HBO GO.
There are age and gender differences. Older Americans are more likely than younger residents to say that marijuana should be banned. Seven in ten adults 60 and older — 70% — think marijuana should not be allowed for professional athletes. This compares with 65% of those 45 to 59, 57% of residents 30 to 44, and 51% of Americans under 30. Looking at gender, women — 67% — are more likely than men — 57% — to think marijuana should be off limits for professional athletes.
“While marijuana is banned in the NFL, players tell Real Sports it is widely used, and for reasons that many might not expect,” says Joe Perskie, Senior Producer for HBO’s Real Sports.
Does marijuana use by professional athletes to relieve pain and anxiety trump its negative effects on performance? Nearly two-thirds of Americans — 64% — say professional athletes should not be allowed to use the drug because of the negative effects it has on their game. 34%, however, believe they should be permitted to use the drug for medicinal purposes, and 3% are unsure. The views of sports fans are in line with the overall population.
“Americans hold professional athletes to very high standards. Smoking marijuana, even if legal, would likely shatter the image of excellence we demand from our sports heroes,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “In the end, we expect professional athletes to do three things: make physical sacrifice, care deeply about winning, and be role models for kids.”
Again, there are differences by age. Americans under thirty — 55% — are more likely to say athletes should be allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. This compares with just 39% of residents 30 to 44 years old, 30% of those 45 to 59, and 23% of Americans 60 and older.
About Keith Strudler, Ph.D.
Keith Strudler, Ph.D., is the director for the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. Dr. Strudler founded Marist’s popular concentration in sports communication in 2002, now one of the nation’s largest in the discipline. He studies and teaches in the areas of sports media, sports and society, and sports reporting and information. Dr. Strudler also writes weekly sports commentary for WAMC, an NPR radio station in Albany, NY.