The Humiliation of Clifford Robinson

The facts, as stated by the AP May 12: “New Jersey forward Clifford Robinson was suspended five games without pay by the NBA on Friday after violating terms of the league’s drug policy for the second time in two seasons. Robinson will miss at least the rest of the Eastern Conference semifinals. His suspension begins Friday night with Game 3 of the Nets’ series against the Miami Heat, and leaves New Jersey without one of its possible options for defending Shaquille O’Neal.

“Robinson was also suspended five games in February 2005 while playing for Golden State. Under terms of last year’s collective bargaining agreement, a player would be suspended five games for a third positive test for marijuana. The 39-year-old Robinson is a valuable reserve for the Nets. He averaged 6.9 points in 80 games this season, his 17th in the NBA.”

Among active NBA players, Cliff Robinson is second only to Dikembe Mutombo in age. What does that say about his marijuana use? The league, i.e. the owners, set him up by insisting that he only use corporate drugs to deal with the pounding his body took. Clifford Robinson was obviously unimpaired as an athlete. By all accounts he was friendly, intelligent, even-tempered un-egotistical -a great teammate. He didn’t like being screamed at by PJ Carlesimo, but he handled the situation more diplomatically than another player did a few years later. Lot of good it did him…

Young Latrell moved to Flint to live with his dad Who then got taken prisoner in your war on drugs gone mad Over some marijuana they put another man away Was that good for General Motors, was it any good for the USA?

PJ Carlesimo was the coach at Seton Hall Never won a championship but PJ got the call to try his style of leadershit on the players up in the pros He was Caucasian, by the way, the players mostly Negroes

Sprewell won a fellowship to attend the Crimson Tide Where the athletes lived segregation camouflaged as pride He got well known for defense and always working hard Nelson drafted him after saying “Why ever draft a guard?”

Carlesimo in Portland for three unpleasant years Rod Strickland and Clifford Robinson said “Let me out of here!” And for his mediacrisy, what be PJ’s fate? A five year contract to coach Golden State

A team that was imploding since unloading proud Tyrone Acquiring Chris Webber who did not like Nellie’s tone He asked for some changes but Nellies said “Neigh,” Red Auerbach taught him everything he must have thought he knew the way

Carlesimo was one of those men who has to scream Insults at grown-ups to mold them into “his team” He’d scowl and growl to exercise control And on the floor he tried to make a sycophant of a man named Bimbo Coles

Losing night after losing night in slow descent to Hell And every day at practice coach would denigrate Latrell Until at last Spree could not take one more nasty crack And they grabbed him in a headlock for a momentary payback

Then he ran off to the lockers, then he stormed back on the floor To say just like Clifford Robinson “I won’t work for you no more!” The team all in between ’em Spree swung out for effect It was just a way of saying, “Man, here’s your disrespect.”

It was just a way of trying to show him how it feels Just a flash of honesty -it was real And for this they tried to take his job forever and a day The arbitrator said “No, just all season without pay.”

The fans all across the dial squealed “We been had. I can’t choke my boss,” the double standard made ’em mad And attorney general Lungren who was supposed to uphold the law Misstated the facts trying to win a few votes more.

I hear that there’s a movie out about a mutiny led by a slave On the good ship Amistad and Spielberg’s all “How brave.” Of course that was another century and the black men nameless freight Not the celebrated contract-locked-up property of Golden State.


Hemp for Victory (NBA Version)

There are at least two young billionaires in the San Francisco Bay Area with a love of hoops and a social conscience. There’s another young billionaire who could care less about hoops but whose political wish list includes ending the drug war. And there’s George Zimmer, owner of the Men’s Wearhouse, to whom this letter is addressed. Any of them could act on the ideas herein, which are given away free (although your correspondent would not be adverse to a job in the “media relations” office).

Dear George,

Knowing that you’re a big Oakland booster, a big sports fan, and a major critic of the marijuana prohibition, allow me to suggest a way to advance all three interests at once. Buy the Warriors. As owner you can not only bring an NBA title to Oakland, you can strike the biggest blow against the Drug War since we, the voters, with your help, passed Prop 215 in ’96. Here’s the scenario.

One: You buy the Warriors Let’s not quibble over how many mill it’s going to cost. The Men’s Wearhouse is a Fortune 500 company, is it not? And it’s an investment -the price of sports franchises keeps going up. And it’s publicity. And it’s a tax write-off, I guarentee it. But that’s not the point… The point is what you can accomplish culturally and politically and health-wise for suffering mankind.

Two: You hire a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians as team doctor. Players are advised that it’s legal in California to smoke marijuana with physician approval, and that it is recommended as an after-game relaxant and anti-inflammatory, and as an alternative to alcohol, SSRI anti-depressants, painkillers and sleeping pills. As you may have read in the New York Times in 1997, 60 to 70 percent of the players in the NBA use marijuana and/or alcohol, and more would if they could do so legally and not jeopardize their jobs. I guarantee it.

Three: As they become free agents, players like Allen Iverson and Lamar Odom and Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber -instead of accepting humiliation and living in low-key fear- would WANT to run with your team. I guarantee it.

Four: You urge the owners association to drop the demand for drug testing when the collective-bargaining agreement is renewed with the players association. Every sports section in the country will explain your reasoning. The radio talk shows will reverberate with discussion of the drug war. The A-level TV shows (Leno, etc.) will jostle each other trying to book you. I guarantee it. Knowing he’s got your backing, the Warriors player rep can take a stand against marijuana testing.

Five: The players association, after some serious soul searching, decides to take a stand against testing for marijuana, not just on behalf of the players themselves but also for millions of black and brown and white Americans who use marijuana responsibly… This is the iffiest part of the scenario, and we can expect the players’ agents to function as political prison guards. (They’d sooner negotiate for more money than better working conditions.) But even if you can’t start a league-wide uprising, you can transform the Warriors into a team of legal, up-front cannabis users. All it would take is one owner allowing/encouraging his employees to emancipate themselves from the gross indignity of urine-testing, and in so doing, to help emancipate the rest of us. I guarantee it.

Six: The obvious choice for coach is migraine sufferer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a medicinal-cannabis user who has spent years trying to fight his way off the NBA blacklist and get a head coaching job. Another would be the most durable player of his era, Robert Parrish, discarded early in his career by the Warriors, humiliated towards the end by a marijuana-possession charge.

Seven: The O-rena is a name we could do without. This is to propose “The Men’s Greenhouse.” Or simply, “The Oakland Garden.” And Warrirors is hardly appropriate for a team opposed to the drug war. Instead, how about “the Bay Area Fearies?” It has a nice ring to it, an internal rhyme. And won’t it be great to see “Faeries 108, Rockets 97” crawl across the bottom of the TV screen?… There is a whole new market that can be tapped of people here and in other cities who will come to games or watch on TV just to root for -or against- the Bay Area Faeries. I guarantee it.

p.s. Do you remember “the doobie section” – a ramp at one end of the Coliseum where Warrior fans by the hundreds used to smoke marijuana at half-time? It flourished in the ’70s, the glory years of Rick Barry and Phil Smith (rest in peace)… The current anti-smoking laws would prevent you from bringing back the doobie section, alas. But you can bring an NBA championship to Oakland and challenge the basic premise of the drug war on the level at which it needs to be challenged.


Abe Rosenthal, Drug Warrior

Abe Rosenthal, whose obituaries last week made copious reference to his “fierce drive,” “outmaneuvering his rivals,” etc., wrote a hysterical op-ed piece entitled “While We Slept” that the NY Times ran nine days after Prop 215 passed (11/15/96). As the title suggests, the East Coast Drug Warriors had assumed that an initiative to legalize marijuana in California had no chance of winning -that Attorney General Dan Lungren, leader of the No-on-215 campaign, had the situation well in hand, and that the masses, having absorbed a lifetime of war-on-drugs propaganda, were not about to tell the government to change course. Rosenthal’s piece rested on and reiterated a false assumption: that the outcome was a result of George Soros paying for Yes-on-215 ads.

“‘Drug money” used to mean just one thing — the fortunes manipulated by drug criminals. Last week, while America slept, it took on one more meaning: the gobs of money contributed by a few rich Americans determined to put across state ballot-propositions that would widen the use of narcotics, and without penalty…

“The California proposition allows marijuana to be grown and used by anybody who has an oral ”recommendation” from a doctor that it would be beneficial in treating ”any illness that marijuana provides relief for.” No penalties for using or growing marijuana and none for the oral ”caregivers.”

“Drug legalizers and drug fighters both know that the most important instrument America has in persuading children not to use narcotics has been strong social and parental disapproval. Both know that creeping legalization will eliminate those influences against drugs, goodbye. [sic]

“Both know that neither proposition could have carried except for the money behind it — particularly George Soros’s money. Mr. Soros is a financier. He gave hundreds of millions to philanthropy. Now he gives money to drug legalization, by whatever euphemism his beneficiaries call it.

“Joseph A. Califano Jr., president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, said that out-of-state money ”bamboozled” California …with misleading advertising. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the director of U.S. drug policy, said these bankrollers should be ashamed of themselves.”

Rosenthal’s false analysis in the Times was self-reenforcing, and to this day it is widely assumed that the Soros-funded ad campaign was a crucial factor in Prop 215’s success. It wasn’t. What’s true is that Soros’s funding of a professional signature drive in the first quarter of ’96 was crucial to the measure making the ballot. But even before that point, a poll by David Binder showed, California voters favored legalizing marijuana for medical use by a 60-40 margin. The No-on-215 campaign didn’t raise a big ad budget because Lungren didn’t think he needed one. He directed the Bureau of Narcotics to raid and close Dennis Peron’s San Francisco Buyers Club on Aug. 4, 1996, which was the biggest story in the state and drove home what the zealous prosecutor considered his key point: that the author of Prop 215 was a gay pot dealer from San Francisco with a criminal record as long as your arm.

The raid on Dennis’s clubsinspired the great Garry Trudeau to do a week of pro-cannabis buyers’ club Doonesbury strips. Lungren responded with a letter urging California publishers not to run the strips, which he released at a press conference, making him a target of mockery. Trudeau weighed in with another week of strips in October, at which point the Yes-on-215 poll numbers stopped a slow slide and rose agaijn. The three Soros-funded TV spots, developed by Santa Monica campaign consultant Bill Zimmerman, were well done and undoubtedly swayed some voters in Southern California. But they were not decisive by any means. The total budget was less than $1 million, most of Soros’s contribution having gone to the signature drive.

Abe Rosenthal distorted the facts to serve his Prohibitionist purpose in this instance, and this instance typified his relationship to the truth. He personified the New York Times at its worst. I met him once in an elevator in the Hilton Hotel on Michigan Ave in Chicago as the anti-war protests were building outside. During a ride to the eighth floor we had what the Times used to call “a full and frank exchange of views.”

FRED GARDNER is the editor of O’Shaughnessy’s Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical Group. He can be reached at:



Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at