Maybe I’ve lived in California too long, maybe I’m just too used to people smoking weed, or maybe I just don’t find things as offensive as the next person. Who knows? What I do know is that a strange thought occurred to me while I watched Ole Miss LT Laremy Tunsil free fall in the NFL Draft because of a viral video leaked just before the event began.
I’ve heard both conspiracy theories and while I personally tend to favor the step-dad version of things more than the scorned financial analyst -- honestly, when was the last time you heard of a financial analyst doing something this shady that didn’t involve billions and Wall St. -- the truth of the matter is that we have no idea what happened that night. Tunsil knows, but it’s what people didn’t know on Draft night that kept them from taking a potential 15-times Pro Bowl left tackle and that brings me back to my strange thought.
As I sat there and watched the 49ers pass on Tunsil, instead taking defensive end DeForest Buckner, I couldn’t help but wonder what it is about a bong rip that made so many teams pass on the consensus best player in the Draft. Chip Kelly routinely had players busted at Oregon for their pot-smoking escapades, so what made Tunsil more untouchable than Cliff Harris? Especially if one takes into account that the Niners universally needed help across their entire offensive line and even in a BPA strategy, Tunsil would come out on top.
But the gas mask bong, right? If we’re being intellectually honest, the weirdest thing about that video is not a college kid smoking weed with his friends and then filming it, it’s that they’re black and doing so under a confederate flag. That is to say, why was this such a major issue for Tunsil on Draft night? What is it about a bong rip that had people questioning whether or not this kid had his mind right at the NFL level?
In all honesty, my first thought was that Laremy Tunsil must be one amazing player if he accomplished all of that while basically offering free advertising for Amazon’s budding bong business. I’m gonna step out on an educated limb and guess that this wasn’t Laremy’s first rodeo with a specialty bong and he’s still an all-world left tackle coming out college. This guy probably threw around some straight edge offensive linemen like they were mosh pit fodder.
It’s understandable to some degree why NFL teams would look at his step-dad and rule him out as a wildcard, but Tunsil has never really come across as a guy who wants to be dragged out into the public limelight. This was the same kid who once tweeted “Tunsil gon do Tunsil” with regard to his highly speculated recruiting status. He wasn’t bothered. He wasn’t listening to the reports. He knew where he was gonna go and went about his business.
Meddling family members are the absolute worst. If you’re fortunate enough to have grown up outside of one of these dysfunctional households, consider yourself lucky. Growing up as a ward of the state the way that I did, my family routinely used me as a pawn in their mental manipulation games and Tunsil’s step-dad reeks of this type of character. I don’t know the man from Adam, but I know the type. It fits hims like Arsenal jersey.
If the line of thinking behind some teams dropping Tunsil off their board was that the step-father relationship could be more volatile than they’d imagined, then they probably didn’t do that much research. If it took until NFL Draft night for Tunsil’s step-dad to scare teams off, I have to wonder what they were asking about the kid from January until the end of March. There were obvious issues with the two of them such that it led to an NCAA investigation and a suspension. That should have serious enough for teams to take him off then, not after he cleared a bowl of Purple Martian from a gas mask bong in one hit.
Whether it was dropping him for a bong hit or his volatile step-father, neither really make a load of sense to me. On the dominant hand… blah, blah, blah, this is a business interview...etc. On the other hand, the NFL has a huge “marijuana culture” -- notice I didn’t call it a problem -- and these are the same analysts of character that frequently miss or ignore warning signs when it suits their purpose.
Johnny Manziel had warning sign after warning sign. Cleveland ignored them and did whatever. But unlike Laremy Tunsil, Manzil had very real warning signs. Fear not the introverted man sitting on a couch smoking weed with his friends, but have a healthy fear of a quarterback still hitting the club tour while facing domestic violence charges. The problem for NFL organizations is identifying which guy is the real problem and which guy is just the stoner.
This isn’t to say that Tunsil didn’t come with some other concerns, but it is increasingly hard to find a five-star talent of Tunsil’s caliber, located in the south, and who doesn’t have bagman rumors around his name, There is simply too much money to made for billionaires for them not to meddle in the recruiting business, and so they have, will and shall continue to do so. At this point, bagman rumors are the new weed. Talk to me when it’s things like Baylor’s massively out-of-control sexual assault problem or issues of actual violence.
As I wrote for CFBHuddle back when former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was doing his best Gary Busey impersonation at Salute to Troy, these types of things are serious in their own context, but that should not take away from the real issues plaguing the NFL and college football. By all accounts, Laremy Tunsil has handled this situation like a grown-ass man and far better than some of his peers.
Not only has Tunsil been honest about the video, he’s been honest about a few other things, too. In fact, Tunsil was so forthcoming that Todd McShay actually had to walk back his comments about Tunsil being a snitch, as if he owes any loyalty to Ole Miss, the NCAA, Hugh Freeze, or the number of people who left him during his time of need. They were likely too busy getting their own stories straight to care about the fact that someone intentionally sabotaged what was supposed to be the biggest night of this young man’s life.
It frankly doesn’t matter if Tunsil smoked weed or took money to play at Ole Miss. Neither one of those things are enough for me to consider him a bigger problem in sports than the Sam Okwuachus and Johnny Manziel’s of the world. More importantly than what I think, it’s ridiculous that the story is Tunsil smoking weed rather than “vindictive jackass intentionally ruins the night of a 20-year-old for laughs and pleasure.”
Tunsil was done dirty on Draft night and that really hasn’t been said enough. This is a young man who worked as hard as he possibly could to reach the top of his game and one hit of a bong was enough to scare off executives who have drafted, signed, and traded for the worst kinds of humanity. It’s time to stop treating stoners like they’re the criminals and focus on the real problems in the league.
There are many, they are great. The fact that Tunsil even has to go through a joke of program just so he can pretend to not smoke again for the Dolphins is a slap in the face to everyone’s intelligence. The league’s players have a different opinion of marijuana than the league’s administrators. Getting around a test in the league is almost a rite of passage and when people do fail, there are often other players right there on social media reminding them that it’s easy to avoid being caught by following certain rules.
I applaud Tunsil for his honesty and I applaud him for taking the path of righteousness rather than playing the childish games everyone else seems to playing. The only thing left for Laremy to do now is rip it all over league and then rip one after he retires from a long and probably accolade-filled career.