OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr made headlines Friday when he said on a podcast with CSN Bay Area’s Monte Poole that he took medicinal marijuana during his recovery from back surgery last year.
Before the Warriors faced the Phoenix Suns at Oracle Arena Saturday night, Kerr discussed the way the story had blown up over the prior 24 hours, and how his original point — that he’d used medical marijuana because of the many potential side effects that come with taking regularly prescribed drugs — had been lost amid the reaction to an NBA coach admitting he’d used marijuana, even in a medicinal setting.
Kerr’s full responses — which in total took several minutes — are below, along with the questions that prompted them.
Q: What have the last 24 hours been like?
A: I was a little surprised at the fact it became kind of a big deal. The conversation was really about pain relief in professional sports. The context of our conversation and my response to your question was about how professional sports should handle pain relief for players. I thought it was … interesting. Because of the way the world works, the way the media works, what is a very serious conversation about pain relief turns into the headline “Kerr smokes pot.” So, I guess that’s the world we live in. That’s fine. But I’m actually kind of glad it became an issue. It’s a very important issue to talk about. Having gone through a tough spell over the last year with my own recovery from back surgery, and a lot of pain, I had to do a lot of research. You get handed prescriptions for Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet. NFL players, that’s what they’re given. The stuff is awful. The stuff is dangerous. The addiction possibility, what it can lead to, the long-term health risks.
“The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players. But I understand it’s a perception issue around the country. And in the NFL, NBA, it’s a business, so you don’t want your customers thinking, ‘These guys are a bunch of potheads.’ That’s what it is. But, to me, it’s only a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is allowed in sports leagues, because the education will overwhelm the perception. If you do any research at all, the stuff they’re prescribing is really bad for you, and the stuff that they’re banning is fine. It’s perception, but I do think it’s a matter of time. You can see it with our country. Our country is starting to wisen up on the medicinal marijuana side. But I hope we can wisen up on the prescription-drug side. That’s scary stuff, and it’s really not talked about often.
Q: Along those lines, a few months ago you said your team can be a voice for important matters. Do you think you saying something can change how people feel?
A: I think it’s important to talk about it, because, again, it’s all about perception. At first, I’m disappointed it didn’t work. I really wanted some relief, and I didn’t get it. But having done the research, it was well worth the try. But I think it’s going to be very important going forward. I’m always struck, whenever I’m home on the couch watching a sporting event, some drug commercial comes, and they show these happy people jumping in a lake, rowing a boat, and then you just wait for the qualifier: ‘Side effects include suicidal thoughts and possible death.’ And you’re like, ‘This is insane!’ It’s insane. It really is. And, yet, the stigma is not on those drugs being prescribed day and night to anybody that wants them. It’s on something that’s relatively harmless. The conversation is important.
Q: Seemed like overall the reception to what you said was positive, from judging by social media. What did you think of how the reaction was to it?
A: Well, I didn’t read a whole lot of stuff; I just saw various headlines. I get on websites to check out NBA news all the time, every day, and every one had that headline. That one kind of surprised me. But I haven’t really talked to many people about it. Again, I don’t think it’s a big deal. But I do find it ironic had I said, ‘I’ve used Oxycontin for relief for my back pain,’ it would not have been a headline. So that’s all.
“I just urge people to do your research before you start taking the stuff we’re all encouraged to take and prescribed to take. I always feel bad for the NFL guys. Playing in the NBA, I had lots of injuries. I had plenty of pain. I never took anything like the opioids we talked about. But I know that NFL guys, those guys are basically in a car wreck every week, sometimes twice in five days, which is another issue. But when they’re prescribed that, it’s really scary. Especially prescribed by team doctors, when you do the research on the possible repercussions of these drugs. That’s the whole point. That was the point of the whole discussion with Monte. I wasn’t trying to draw attention to myself. I didn’t want to be a distraction to anybody, but to answer your question, Janie, it’s an important topic, so hopefully people will think about it.
Q: Right now they’re talking about the new CBA coming up. Do you think the league should keep testing players for marijuana?
A: Well, I think the league should look into the use of medicinal marijuana for pain relief. As far as recreational, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about pain relief and what’s best for our players’ health. That’s what should be in the CBA, and that’s what our owners and the league and the players’ union should be most concerned with. And maybe part of that is educating the public about how bad some of this stuff that players are being given for pain relief actually is. So the education is important. And I think as the public gets more educated, and as people get more educated, there will ultimately be a policy that includes medicinal CBD, oils, ingest, whatever is best suited for pain. And hopefully it’s something that comes in the next CBA, but I have no idea. That’s not my responsibility.