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Can NFL Competitors Like the AAF and the XFL Be Successful?

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NFL Competitors
PHOTO | Adobe Stock
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In recent years, we’ve seen a bunch of NFL competitors pop up promising streamlined, quick-paced play and an alternative to an increasingly polarizing and political NFL.

Some notable alternatives include the Alliance of American Football and the XFL, one of which just kicked off its inaugural season and the other set to go in 2020.

While the leagues themselves have made big promises as being similar to minor league feeders or straight up competitors to the NFL, those are big promises to make.

The NFL is a billion dollar industry, a juggernaut in the sport only comparable to college football in scale and saturation into the American fabric.

The only way that these leagues can carve out their own niche is to stick to their promised identity, innovate and produce or secure NFL-quality players.

AAF

While the Alliance of American Football (AAF) isn’t a league in direct competition with the NFL, they do have some connective threads.

Alliance teams tout themselves as a feeder system to the NFL, a place for players trying to keep in shape, playing for a team and ready to be signed to an NFL roster in case of an injury.

Some current NFL upper-level management, like the LA Chargers general manager Tom Telesco, feel that the Alliance could be used similarly to minor league baseball teams.

“It’s a great idea,” Telesco told ESPN. “It has the potential to be a nice complement to the NFL. It’s a great spot for a developmental league for players, but even aside from that — coaches and front office, officiating, athletic trainers and video equipment people, public relations — all of that. So I think it’s a great place where people can develop in every department of football operations. Every department that touches a football team can get some real-life experience.”

As a place for young players to develop further after college in an organized, professional team setting or for players who might be between opportunities in the league.

Some former NFL players scattered across the league include Trent Richardson, Christian Hackenberg, Josh Johnson, Nick Novak, Matt Asiata and Bishop Sankey.

It’s yet to be seen if the league has the potential for expansion from where it is now, but it’s one of the more promising prospects as an NFL companion we’ve seen in years.

The XFL

While the Alliance might be positioning itself as an NFL companion, the XFL is trying to dethrone it.

The second coming of the venture, WWE head man Vince McMahon has pitched the XFL as a league that embraces the violent hits that the NFL has worked to phase out of the game and takes a hard-line stance on political protests like kneeling during the anthem that polarized the league these past few seasons.

The XFL promises a league free of protests, where everyone stands for the national anthem, no one with any type of criminal record is allowed to play and players are free to hit one another with reckless abandon.

The key to the XFL’s success is going to be getting those NFL fans who are dissatisfied with the league for the lack of hard-hitting action or political differences to watch them instead of the NFL, a big ask for many.

In a country where football is a religion for many, carving out a segment of that dedicated population might be a mighty challenge.

Whether it’s the AAF or XFL, the alternatives to the NFL are growing. It’s a market yet to be tapped by other leagues.

Eventually, someone is going to do it but I have my doubts it will be either of these two leagues.

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Skateboarder JS Lapierre Rides to the Top with CBD

JS Lapierre talks to Cannabis Aficionado about his skateboarding history, his future and the role CBD plays in his health and fitness regimen.

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JS Lapierre
PHOTOS | Supplied

To the masses, the concept of skateboarding invokes images of urban streets, concrete, metal fixtures and graffiti art. In stark contrast, skateboarder JS Lapierre began his venture in the simplistic farmland setting of a small Canadian village. No handrails and no jumps, just hard work, passion, and creativity.

JS Lapierre has made a commitment to focusing on mental and physical health as he continues to pursue his journey in skateboarding. He makes conscious decisions every day to better himself, which is something that can arguably be seen as counterintuitive to the traditional skateboarding lifestyle. Now, as a skateboarder riding for Zero Skateboards, he continues to add knowledge and skills to his repertoire, a lot of which is motivated by his new passion for CBD.

We spoke exclusively to JS Lapierre about his skateboarding history, future and the role CBD plays in his health and fitness regimen.

Cannabis Aficionado: What was your first memory of skateboarding?

JS Lapierre: The first time that skateboarding was introduced to me was when one of my friends got a mini ramp in his backyard. I think I used his older brother’s skateboard and I was instantly obsessed. That friend and I keep in touch. I don’t know if his older brother ever found out I was using his board, but I know his parents were proud when they found out I was doing so well skateboarding.

What is it about skateboarding that is so appealing to you?

When I was a kid I did it because I loved it so much. There was no reason, I just thought it was really fun. Now, as I grow older and learn more about spirituality I realize that extreme sports give a moment of clarity. Nothing else is going on. There is no voice in my head, no ego. It is a pure form of meditation for me. Everything it has given me has been amazing. I’ve been crazy places and met all kinds of people. I’m very grateful.

 

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Thanks @jackalopefest for having me again this year ❤️📷: @danmathieu

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When did you make the decision to pursue skateboarding as a career?

I think deep down in my heart I knew that I wanted to pursue skateboarding as a goal. I believe there was a decisive moment when I finished high school. My parents wanted me to keep going to school, so I applied to go to college.

I was supposed to start the next month, but there was a big contest in Montreal. I decided to go out there and try. I got first place and won like eight thousand dollars. That was the perfect opportunity to set aside regular life and pursue skateboarding. My mom was super supportive and I had a little money to live on, which I think made her more ok with it. It has been such a blessing.

You grew up in a small town on a farm. Skateboarding is often associated with urban lifestyle. How do you combine those two worlds?

I’ve been really lucky. When I was young my parents were really supportive. We lived in a small village that only had about 400 people. I loved it so much that I wanted to skate every day. I would skate in front of my house, practicing ground tricks. They would bring me out to the nearest skatepark whenever they could, which was 15 minutes away. In the winter there was an indoor skate park 45 minutes away by Montreal. I was really lucky they did that for me.

How much time do you spend skating a week?

I think I skate probably once every two days, depending on a lot of things. You can’t really film at skate parks. You have to find handrails and sets of stairs. It takes some time to drive around trying to find skate spots and then try not to get kicked out. Most of the time I skate 5-10 hours during the week. That’s one of the reasons it’s good to have other things around that you like to do. I read, stretch a lot and do yoga.

Finding a great place to skate and film can be difficult. Skateboarders are often stereotyped as youngsters with no regard for others’ space or property. In reality, most have no intention of disturbing the peace.

I’ve been really lucky. Some people go to jail for trespassing or ridiculous fines. When I was young, I got a $600 fine for skating. I believe I was under 18 so the fine was significantly reduced. We are just trying to have fun and skate. Some people don’t see it that way.

 

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Thanks @williamcristofaro93 🎥💖

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How do you know when it is time to stop skating for the day?

That is what’s cool; you are never going to know everything in skateboarding. There are so many tricks that you are never going to master more than yourself. I skate as much as I can without being too sore the next day. I listen to my body.

Some skateboarders prefer to skate alone, while others like to travel in groups. I like to have friends around, but if we are in a city it can be kind of annoying to have a big group. But I like a good communal session. Talk some shit and do some skating.

If you could ride with anyone, who would it be?

Laird Hamilton. He’s actually a surfer, not a skateboarder but the reasons for that is that he’s got so many insights about how to maintain a healthy body through cold exposure and breathing exercises. He’s got these underwater exercises that a bunch of people come to his house to try out and it looks so epic.

How has your decision to adopt a meat-free lifestyle affected your body?

It started off as an ethical decision. I saw videos of what goes on in slaughterhouses and I wanted to do something about that. If I’m consuming those products I’m supporting the industry. So, I started as a vegetarian. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was really a healthy option. There is a lot of misinformation about how you lose important nutrients and protein. As I got older, I began to read about the nutrition side of things. I also watched a lot of documentaries, which prompted me to become a vegan.

I try to be as healthy as possible. Since skateboarding is my career, I have some extra time on my hands to learn and use my knowledge efficiently. I want to be able to skate as long as possible. I want to be able to use all the tools I can outside of skateboarding to do what I love the most.

A vegan lifestyle takes a lot of dedication. How do you make it work?

Honestly, I used to eat for taste. I love eating food still, but I try to center my diet on the healthiest things. I cook a lot. I don’t eat out much. I make a lot of smoothies with superfoods so I am full of energy throughout the day. I love Indian food. That’s probably my favorite.

My parents are starting to realize more about healthy eating. Whenever I go home I try and tell them what I know without being too annoying. I can see an improvement and I want to see my parents stay healthy and energetic.

What do you do to stay mentally focused?

I do yoga and try to meditate daily, which is a difficult thing to do. I also do Wim Hoff breathing exercises and cold showers, which help to restore balance and maintain energy. It’s amazing.

I’ve been super into health and self-improvement for a few years now and I was always jealous of my friends who would be able to benefit from the cannabis plant. I wished I would be able to smoke a joint after a long day of skating so I could recuperate faster and just relax. I personally always had a hard time getting high though, I would be super paranoid and it ended up just being a turn off so I haven’t smoked weed in years now.

What made you decide to start incorporating CBD oil into your healthy routine?

I think it was from seeing other friends posting about it and I kept seeing CBD oil in some of the health stores and hearing about it. I knew cannabis had a lot of benefits, but I don’t smoke. I get too much in my head. I knew there were good things in cannabis but I didn’t want to smoke. Then I looked up the benefits of CBD. I think it is the perfect tool to skate and recuperate. And mentally it makes me feel really calm.

I take Receptra CBD oil every day, in the morning and at night. In the long run, the tincture makes a difference in overall health. The topical is good for short-term pain.

For me, being sore is the issue rather than bruising. You jump the same set 40-50 times and you are going to be sore. Receptra helps with that. It is super effective and really easy just to use the liquid every day as part of my routine.

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7 Pro MMA Fighters Who Openly Support Cannabis

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MMA

It’s no secret that people both enjoy and benefit from using cannabis. Elite athletes are no different. Former pro athletes like Al Harrington and Ricky Williams who were once penalized for their cannabis use, are now starting their own cannabis companies and touting the numerous medical benefits of using cannabis for recovery and wellness.

In a recent article from Bleacher Report, a panel of eight retired former NBA and NFL players talked openly about the frequency of use among athletes.

However, the plant remains banned by sports like the NFL, NBA, MLB and the UFC.

The UFC does allow for its fighters to use CBD, however, making it one of the first major sports to allow their athletes to do so. Mixed martial arts (MMA) seems to be paving the way to mainstreaming cannabis use among elite athletes.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at seven MMA athletes who openly use cannabis and dominate at what they do.

Matt Riddle

Matt Riddle got off to a promising start in the UFC, winning his first two fighters before testing positive for cannabis twice and being released from the sport.

The athlete has been open about his cannabis use as a medical marijuana patient for physical aches and pains, along with personality issues.

He’s now a professional wrestler and his doing great at it, winning the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s “Rookie of the Year” and “Most Improved Wrestler of the Year” for 2016.

Sean O’Malley

A lanky, lightweight fighter with a high work rate and a ton of personality, Sean “Suga” O’Malley has not been shy about his cannabis use.

Famously smoking with stoner legend Snoop Dogg after a big UFC victory, O’Malley doubles down on his stoner appeal by doing interviews in a robe adorned in pot leaves.

He even released his own strain last year, Suga Show OG, which is a cross between Lemonhead and OG 92. He’s the real deal when it comes to both fighting and weed.

Jon Jones

Undeniably one of the best pound for pound UFC fighters of all time, Jon Jones has been very open and public with his substance struggles.

While cocaine and PED’s have all done their part in derailing the career of one of the most promising fight games talents ever, Jones has been clear while he quit other substances he’ll still smoke cannabis and have a drink from time to time.

Jake Shields

Probably the most low-key entry on this list, former UFC Welterweight championship contender Jake Shields is a major cannabis advocate.

The Californian fighter spoke at the 2016 Cannathlere convention, “It is a big part of the training for a lot of people. I definitely don’t smoke every day, but sometimes it is a good way to go in there and smoke a little bit and be a little more creative — like sometimes when you are in a big training camp before a competition, it really makes training fun again.”

The Diaz Brothers

The undisputed cannabis kings of the fight game, the Diaz brothers are as open as they could possibly be about their cannabis use.

Nick Diaz talked publically about how he would pass drug tests despite smoking frequently and was even banned for five years when he was caught.

His brother Nate stepped the game up even more, actually smoking a CBD oil vape during a post-fight press conference.

The two have become big names in the cannabis industry, reportedly sustaining their income away from the fight game by launching Game Up, a CBD-infused, plant-based nutrition company.

Ronda Rousey

One of the most dominant female MMA fighters of all time and current WWE superstar, Ronda Rousey has been clear about her position on cannabis over the years.

After Nick Diaz was suspended for his cannabis use, Rousey expressed her support for him and cannabis use as a whole during multiple interviews over the years.

“It’s so not right for [Nick Diaz] to be suspended five years for marijuana. I’m against testing for weed at all. It’s not a performance-enhancing drug. And it has nothing to do with competition. It’s only tested for political reasons.” She said during one interview.

While Rousey has talked extensively about using cannabis when she was younger in her book My Fight/Your Fight, many have speculated that she’s still using since she’s spent so much time with the Diaz brothers. She’s even posted some photos where the eyes were… glassy, to say the least.

Whatever the case, we’re chalking this one up as Rousey being supportive of cannabis use.

Bas Rutten

Bas Rutten has an incredible story of the highest highs and the lowest lows you can achieve in the fight game. Due to the injuries he accrued over his long fighting career, Rutten developed a crippling addiction to painkillers.

After trying to kick his addiction by using drugs like Suboxone or even trying to go cold turkey, Rutten turned to CBD oil for pain relief and was able to kick his addiction.

“I was skeptical, but I had to try something else,” Rutten said of CBD oil. “I gave Receptra a shot and it changed my life. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Rutten even said the CBD use makes his training and pain management easier, his daughter use it to get rid of zits and he recommends it for anything trying to reduce muscle soreness and better control their pain.

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NFL Players Will No Longer Be Suspended for Cannabis Use

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Suspended for Cannabis
PHOTO | bondarchik

In the midst of a global pandemic, canceled seasons for the NBA, NHL, international soccer leagues, the PGA and a handful of other sporting events, races and leagues, the NFL Player’s Association and the owners were hard at work negotiating a brand new collective bargaining agreement.

After weeks of negotiations, a deal was struck, the votes were cast and the final details of the deal were set in stone. The owners got one more regular-season game and the players got something arguable even more important; reduced penalties for failed cannabis tests.

That’s right, the famously stuffy and conservative National Football League has loosened their stringent rules when it comes to players enjoying cannabis. Following in the footsteps of Major League Baseball, NFL players can no longer be suspended for cannabis in positive tests. Gone are the days when a player testing positive could mean lost game checks, multi-game suspensions and even season-long bans for multiple-time offenders.

On top of that, the threshold for failing a test has now been bumped up to 150 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, way up from the previous standard of 35 nanograms.

If a player still manages to fail a test despite the newly heightened standards, their test will be reviewed by a board of medical professionals who will then determine if a player needs further treatment for potential drug abuse.

The testing window for players is also set to be shortened from four months to two weeks, meaning fewer players than before will get tested than in previous years.

On top of the new testing standards and smaller window, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement also states that “a neutral decision-maker” will be the one to officially make the disciplinary decisions that decreases commissioner Roger Goodell’s disciplinary power.

Working this perk into the new CBA, along with a slightly larger portion of overall revenue for a league worth nearly $3 billion, is a huge deal for pro athletes in a sport whose careers average only about three years.

NFL Players and Cannabis: A Long Forbidden Love Story

While this new CBA certainly opens the door for a new age of cannabis-loving NFL athletes, the love affair between the NFL’s players and cannabis is a long, storied and sensible one.

Former NFL running back Ricky Williams has long been a supporter and proponent of cannabis, even going as far as starting his own cannabis business in 2018. Former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett went on record in 2018 to say he thinks “about 89 percent” of the league’s players use cannabis. And, of course, who can forget Laremy Tunsil and his astounding draft day slide due to being hacked and tweeting a video of him hitting a gas-mask style bong?

Simply put, the new reduced risks around being suspended for cannabis use is a long-time coming for one of the most violent and physically taxing pro sports leagues in the world. We’ve already seen high-profile early retirements over the last few years like Andrew Luck and Rob Gronkowski, the latter of the two immediately signing on to advocate for CBD use for pain and recovery.

This new CBA is a massive step in the right direction for the future of players, allowing some of the richest athletes in the country access to a substance that nine of the 32 teams can legally use recreationally.

Keeping NFL players on the field AND removing their risk of being suspended for cannabis? Now that’s a brand new type of Super Bowl.

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