Laremy Tunsil had a life-changing couple of hours on Thursday night when he went from a potential top five draft pick to an NFL pariah.
Just before the draft began, a photo was posted on social media of Tunsil smoking out of a bong while wearing a gas mask.
Tunsil’s account was hacked by someone he knew who was trying to sabotage him.
His stock plummeted and the Dolphins were stunned to land him with the No. 13 draft pick.
Tunsil, while speaking with reporters, didn’t deny that he was smoking marijuana in the photo. Dolphins GM Chris Grier said there were rumors the photo existed before the draft.
Grier also said the photo was taken two years ago.
That timeframe is important.
In the NFL, players are required to take a drug test before the draft at the NFL combine, when they join a new team and at one random date during the year.
The random testing period begins on April 20th — an ironic (or perhaps purposeful) date that is an international holiday celebrating marijuana.
So a player will get tested sometime between April 20th and early August.
Since marijauna generally leaves a person’s system in a month or less, players basically have to be clean from mid-March until, at the latest, early August. Then they are free to smoke marijuana without fear of a drug test.
If they fail a test they are placed in the league’s drug intervention program.
For a first violation, a player is under watch for up to 180 days. He can be tested randomly at any point — and multiple times — during that span.
For a Stage Two violation, a player is in the program for two years and be tested randomly during that period.
For a Stage Three marijuana violation, a player can be suspended for 10 games without pay.
But while Tunsil has never failed a drug test, here’s where the league could technically try to get him.
There’s a stipulation that states a player can be entered in to the Stage One program if:
Behavior (including but not limited to an arrest or conduct related to an alleged misuse of Substances of Abuse occurring up to two (2) football seasons prior to the Player’s applicable scouting combine) which, in the judgment of the Medical Director, exhibits physical, behavioral, or psychological signs or symptoms of misuse of Substances of Abuse.
So if the NFL really wanted to pursue this, it could try to determine if the photo is less than two years old.
Will they actually do this?
Marc Edelman, an associate professor of law at the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, City University of New York, specializes in sports law and contributes to Forbes.
Edelman told the Palm Beach Post that it’s possible the league could try to pursue this but he believes it’s a bad idea.
“This is one of the cases where I would encourage the NFL to let it go,” Edelman said. “I can’t speak about what the NFL will do and there are plenty of times that Roger Goodell and his team have made decisions with which I’ve disagreed.
“To me the greatest concern is not the purported past use of marijuana but rather the mental state of this player with everything he’s been through in recent weeks in his life.”
Tunsil is being sued by his former stepfather, Lindsey Miller, for allegedly attacking him and defaming his character. Tunsil’s attorney said it’s an “unsavory attempt to obtain money from a talented young man.”
It’s been speculated that Tunsil’s stepfather hacked his social media account and leaked the photos to hurt his draft stock. Sports Illustrated reported that a finical advisor fired by Tunsil also could have hacked him.
“It seems important to get Tunsil the help that he will need as it is clear there is somebody that is affiliated with him that is making a conscious effort to try to destroy his career,” Edelman said. “Anybody — no matter how strong they may be — would need help to deal with a situation that right before the biggest moment of their life having their social media accounts hacked and having damaging information put forward about them.”
Edelman said he expects Goodell would want to meet with Tunsil to discuss the issues.
“Whether or not he may or may not have smoked mairjuana in the past two years seems to be a minimal concern in light of all the challenges this young man must be going through at the moment,” Edelman said.
There’s also the issue of leaked text messages that show Tunsil communicating with Ole Miss athletic staff employees for help paying his bills.
Tunsil was already suspended six games last year for accepting impermissible benefits.
He admitted to reporters on Thursday night that he received money from coaches.
While Ole Miss is already dealing with potential violations involving Tunsil — and now it could get worse — Edelman said it’s extremely unlikely the NFL would try to punish Tunsil.
In 2011, the NFL suspended Terrelle Pryor for the first five games of his rookie season. He had been suspended by the NCAA for selling memorabilia while at Ohio State and the NFL upheld the suspension in the NFL.
But it was a different scenario considering that Pryor had already been handed a new suspension by the NCAA and the league ruled that he left Ohio State early to avoid serving it.
Tunsil served a suspension last year.
Ole Miss could be in more trouble than Tunsil. The Post’s Tom D’Angleo laid out Ole Miss’ potential issues with the NCAA.
Edelman said the NFL should also appreciate that Tunsil was upfront about accepting money to help pay bills.
“This can be differentiated from responses of many other players who have had trouble with the law,” Edelman said. “This young man was candid about everything and he shouldn’t be punished for that.
“I would not read much if anything in to the ethics of an individual from a poor family who has accepted small amounts of money.”