Steve Kerr is a six-time NBA champion, having won five titles as a player and a sixth as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. He has the highest 3-point career percentage of any player in NBA history, he's the reigning NBA Coach of the Year, and last week he became the most recent high-profile athlete to admit to using marijuana for pain relief.
On a CSN podcast released last Friday, Steve Kerr told host Monte Poole that he while he's not a "pot person," he tried using weed to treat the back pain he's had for the past two years.
"I guess maybe I could even get in some trouble for this, but I've actually tried (marijuana) twice during the last year and a half when I've been going through this pain, this chronic pain that I've been dealing with," Kerr said.
The 51-year-old coach missed the first 43 games of the last season after experiencing complications from two back surgeries; a spinal fluid leak had led to chronic headaches, nausea and neck pain. Although marijuana didn't help that, he said he wished it had and asserts that weed is better for the body than prescription pain medication.
“I’m always struck every time I’m home on the couch watching a sporting event, some drug commercial comes on, they show these happy people jumping in a lake, rowing a boat, then you just wait for the qualifier,” Kerr told Poole. “Side effects include suicidal thoughts and possible death and you’re like, 'This is insane. Insane.'”
Coaches are subject to one drug test per season during training camp, and there are different thresholds for what is considered a positive test. Players in the NBA who test positive for recreational drugs, marijuana included, are not disciplined until after their third offense. Kerr says he likely would have failed a drug test, but his pain was so severe he didn't care.
"I don't even know if I'm subject to a drug test or any laws from the NBA, but I tried it and it didn't help at all, but it was worth it because I'm searching for answers on pain," he said. "But I've tried painkillers and drugs of other kinds, as well, and those have been worse. It's tricky."
The podcast made Kerr an overnight advocate for other players in the NBA and the NFL who could benefit from medicinal marijuana. "The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players?" he asked. "But I understand that it’s a perception issue around the country and the NFL, NBA, it’s a business, so you don’t want your customers thinking, ‘These guys are a bunch of pot heads.’ That’s what it is."
Kerr told poole that he hopes professional sports organizations follow the growing number of people who have voted to legalize medicinal marijuana in 28 states and the District of Columbia. "To me it’s only a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is allowed in sports leagues because the education will overwhelm the perception," he concluded.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.