The NBA players’ union on Tuesday announced a new partnership to boost sales of a range of CBD products from a company owned by a former star player and distributed through Walmart and Amazon.
The relationship between professional sports organizations and cannabis has gradually evolved as hemp became legal nationwide and more states moved to end marijuana prohibition on a broad scale. The NBA in particular has been quite receptive to policy changes requested by the league’s players’ association.
This newly announced agreement does not directly affect the NBA; Rather, it was forged between former player Al Harrington’s company Harrington Wellness and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), making the CBD supplier an “official partner” of the union. As such, the deal to sell the Re+Play CBD line of products is another example of the normalization of cannabis in pro sports.
“Re+Play’s partnership with the NBPA will provide consumers with a wealth of trusted, technology-driven products to help them recover like a pro,” Harrington said in a press release. “As we move into the next phase of the Re+Play brand with our strategic partners at Amazon, the NBPA and Walmart, we look forward to once again rethinking how we help athletes of all skill levels connect with CBD and other innovative technologies to recover from pain.”
Re+Play’s line of products includes topical products, including some infused with the non-intoxicating cannabinoid, as well as other products like kinesiology tapes and massage guns.
The involvement of Amazon and Walmart is also notable as they are the two largest retailers in the world. Both companies already sell CBD items, but this deal’s high-profile launch underscores the spread of cannabis once again.
“By partnering with Amazon and Walmart, two leading retailers, we can continue our mission to bring quality recovery products to everyday consumers, where they are looking for them,” said Erin Hackney, President of Harrington Wellness. “By gaining access to a new group of consumers looking for pain relief, Re+Play has an opportunity to further establish itself as a trusted brand in the recovery category.”
The first product release from the new partnership is a range of recovery creams developed in collaboration with another company, Avicanna.
Harrington also owns the marijuana company Viola Brands. And he sat down with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) last year to discuss Congressional efforts to end federal prohibition. The leader is expected within weeks to table legislation to legalize it, which has been in the works for a long time.
The athlete and entrepreneur has also urged President Joe Biden to fulfill his campaign promise and grant clemency to those with nonviolent federal cannabis convictions.
Meanwhile, the NBA announced late last year that it would extend its policy of not indiscriminately testing players for marijuana through the 2021-2022 season.
League commissioner Adam Silver said in December 2020 that the league’s decision on marijuana drug testing, made at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, could eventually become permanent.
The new deal between Harrington’s CBD company and NBPA is another case of the league overlapping with the cannabis industry.
In August 2020, it was announced that online marijuana marketplace Weedmaps was teaming up with NBA star Kevin Durant for a multi-year partnership aimed at destigmatizing cannabis and exploring the plant’s potential value in “athlete wellness and recreation.” to show
For her part, Michele Roberts, then head of the NBPA, joined the board of major cannabis company Cresco Labs in 2020.
A one-of-a-kind, taxpayer-funded marijuana PSA, which aired across much of New York during an NBA finals game last month, boldly addressed the racially discriminatory harms of cannabis criminalization and highlighted steps state regulators are taking to right the prohibition’s wrongs correct .
Outside the NBA, it was reported in June that the MLB now allows in-league baseball teams to sell sponsorships to cannabis companies that market CBD products, as long as they meet certain criteria.
MLB, in particular, has set itself apart from other professional sports leagues by being more willing to respond to the changing marijuana policy landscape. For example, a 2020 memo clarified that players will not be penalized for using cannabis while not working, but they cannot be personally sponsored by a marijuana company or hold investments in the industry.
The league also said at the time that it was working with NSF International to analyze and certify legal, non-toxic CBD products for teams to stock on club premises. It’s unclear if this latest development is directly related to this collaboration.
The update built on MLB’s decision in 2019 to remove cannabis from the league’s list of banned substances. Prior to this rule change, players who tested positive for THC were referred to mandatory treatment and were fined up to $35,000 for non-compliance. That penalty is now gone.
The guidelines were the result of negotiations between MLB and its players’ union. Both parties agreed to approach the league’s drug policy with an emphasis on treatment rather than punishment. Players who test positive for opioids or cocaine, for example, are only penalized if they refuse treatment.
A number of sporting governing bodies have recently relaxed the rules on cannabinoids as laws change and medical uses become more accepted.
For example, student-athletes who are part of the NCAA would no longer be automatically disqualified after testing positive for marijuana under rules recommended by a key committee earlier this year.
The talk of drug testing and professional sports came to the fore last summer after US sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was banned from the Olympics for testing positive for THC. She admitted to using cannabis in a legal state after learning of her mother’s death.
The runner said she would feel “blessed and proud” if the attention her case drew resulted in a policy change for other athletes. Even the White House and President Joe Biden himself commented on the case, suggesting that it was questionable whether the marijuana ban should “stay the rules.”
Meanwhile, the NFL’s drug testing policy was reportedly changed as part of a collective bargaining agreement back in 2020.
NFL players no longer face the possibility of being banned from games under a collective bargaining agreement because of positive drug tests — not just marijuana. Instead, they face a fine. The threshold for a positive THC test was also raised as part of the agreement.
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