Olympian Kevin Durant comes out in support of marijuana, striking partnership with Weedmaps
Anyone who has seriously followed professional sports over the last 50 years has surely heard stories of their favorite players or teams being involved in the use of banned substances.
Michael Jordan described his early Chicago Bulls team as a traveling "cocaine circus." Then there's the infamous home run record battle between MLB greats Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire that was marred by accusations, and some proof, of performance enhancing drug (PED) use. And now, we have two-time NBA champion and recent Olympic gold medalist, Kevin Durant, publicly endorsing legal marijuana use and solidifying that endorsement by partnering with e-commerce platform and dispensary search engine, Weedmaps.
Durant's foray into cannabis is an extension of his fledgling media empire. The collaboration with Weedmaps is one of the first major corporate partnerships for the NBA superstar's Boardroom media brand. Like many other professional athletes, Durant joins the growing trend of players looking to leverage the power of sports fame to create niche media spaces that cater to athletes and fans alike. And although he has not publicly admitted to personal marijuana consumption, Durant is now part of a growing cadre of sports professionals who are trying to change the public face of cannabis.
"I think it's far past time to address the stigmas around cannabis that still exist in the sports world as well as globally," Durant told ESPN.
"This partnership is going to help us continue to normalize those conversations, as well as create content, events, and a lot more through our Boardroom media network. This is just the beginning for us."
Through the collaboration with Weedmaps, Durant's Boardroom Media will develop a diverse range of digital video and audible content. Already, the partnership has produced its first release: a 42-minute conversation featuring Durant, his business partner, Rich Kleiman, and Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals.
"Now more than ever, there is so much opportunity for the growth of cannabis in the sports and wellness industry, as well as the removal of any remaining stigmas around its use," Durant told the group.
Cannabis use, particularly in sports, recently became a topic of national conversation after American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson was disqualified from Olympic competition due to her consumption of cannabis while competing in the Olympic trials. Many current and former pro athletes came to Richardson's defense, citing the fact that marijuana does not offer any performance enhancing properties, and also noting that Black athletes are often punished more harshly for rules violations, especially when it comes to banned substances.
Currently, cannabis is forbidden by the NBA and players are typically required to submit to four random tests each year that check specifically for marijuana. However, marijuana testing for players was suspended during the 2020 NBA bubble and did not resume during the 2020-2021 season.
Retired NBA player Matt Barnes, who co-hosts the popular sports podcast All the Smoke with NBA retiree Stephen Jackson, weighed in on the significance of a high profile sports personality like Durant placing his support behind such a controversial issue. Barnes and Jackson's podcast often discusses marijuana use in professional sports and both players have detailed their own experiences with the plant on-air.
"There's a shifting culture and it takes a superstar like KD to embrace this and help others not be afraid to discuss the benefits [of cannabis]," Barnes explained on a recent episode of All the Smoke.
"This has been a process. There have been meetings going on with the league and union for several years and both sides have hired experts to investigate this. This is a big step."
As NBA players prepare for the 2021-2022 season, it will be interesting to see how the league responds to a changing social climate that has one of its top superstars publicly supporting a banned substance. Whatever the case, sports fans and cannabis fans alike can look to Durant, Boardroom, and Weedmaps in hopes of an update.