I am outraged at the decision by National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to reinstate former Washington Redskin Dexter Manley after one year of a "lifetime ban" punishment. To reinstate Mr. Manley trivializes NFL policy against drug abuse. That he is returned to "business as usual" in the minimum time permitted makes a mockery of and is a grievous blow to national efforts at drug-abuse prevention and education. Perhaps "lifetime ban" should henceforth be called "minimal slap on the wrist."
We have three foxes -- owners, players and the media -- guarding the chickens. None is prepared to demonstrate genuine commitment to combating drug abuse within professional football. Each has a vested interest in a weak and superficial system that treats repeated drug abuse almost casually.
Players know the rules, and they are role models for millions of kids. Owners have huge obligations to the communities in which they operate, and the drug industry is tearing those communities apart. The media should be exposing drug abuse by players and demanding well-rounded programs of counseling, monitoring and punishment -- instead of becoming cheerleaders and apologists for flawed behavior.
In my view, all NFL employees should be tested, administrative as well as player personnel. One failed random test should bring a full season's suspension. Two offenses should bring a lifetime ban, period. Maybe then owners, their league officials and players would approach this problem with the resolve it so clearly demands.
The NFL's actions in the Manley case are deeply disappointing. The NFL lost a chance to send a signal. I am saddened at the prospect of more of the same.
WILLIAM M. STOVER Bethesda