Why Reuben Foster’s Arrest Matters

If you’re a 49ers fan, you’ve probably heard of the arrest of Reuben Foster over the course of the last few days. If you’re a die-hard fan, I’m sure you received an alert of it to your smartphone the moment the news broke. If you’re a real die-hard fan, you were probably monitoring law enforcement communications given 49er personnel and their constant legal issues in the off season as of lately, and knew before the news media caught wind of it. No matter which is the case, you’re readily aware of his recent arrest for marijuana possession. And that is what this article is about.

Be advised, my intent is not to discuss the pros and cons of marijuana legalization. Frankly, it’s an argument I never want to get into with anyone because I’ve found most people on either side of the argument cannot discuss it rationally. Unfortunately, part of my argument over why Foster’s arrest does matter, will delve slightly into the realm of marijuana legalization, but my intent is to discuss what is, not what should or should not be.

Moving on.

So, why is it that I believe Reuben Foster’s arrest actually matters? Cutting straight to the chase would be highly beneficial, obviously, but would ultimately do the entire discussion an injustice. However, it would also be an injustice to drag the discussion out further than it needs to be. Thus, a tight line must be walked here. No matter what I say, someone is going to get upset, so I’m not going to worry about that. Instead, I’m going to focus on the appearance of the situation.

Many want to link the arrest of Foster to the multiple arrests of a previous 1st round draft pick for the 49ers, the 2011 7th overall pick, Aldon Smith. Others have gone on to say they’re apples and oranges. The reasons for either side are multiple, but the reality is the situations are as alike as they are different. As French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Roughly translated, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

So, how are they different? Consider the substance(s) in question for each situation: Smith’s choice of poison was alcohol, while Foster preferred marijuana. What else is different about them? Um… one played outside linebacker, the other inside? Wait. Wait. Wait. There has to be something more. Oh yeah. Smith’s first arrest was for driving under the influence of alcohol, whereas Foster’s was for possession of marijuana. Wait, that simply goes back to the first difference, doesn’t it? Well, I guess there isn’t all that much different about it. So, on to how they’re the same.

Both incidences began with a traffic violation. Both happened just after their rookie season completed, in January. Both had warning flags blatantly visible prior to being drafted in the first round by the 49ers, to suggest there would be problems off the field. In Smith’s case, a pre-draft psych profile suggested he was at high risk for off-field trouble. Foster, on the other hand, had a diluted urine sample, which the NFL treated as a positive result. In other words, given both were arrested in the first year of their professional career(s), what was shown for each prior to drafting was exactly correct.

Granted, Aldon Smith never learned from his mistake(s) and perpetually made them like he was trying to set a record for how quickly he could be kicked off the 49ers, while Foster’s mistake is his second and early in his career. That’s right, his second. Contrary to popular belief, the pre-draft positive urine sample is his first documented mistake. In other words, he’s one “mistake” away from a pattern of them. At that point, it becomes impossible to defend him as being different than Smith.

Now, I know, I know: it’s “just weed,” right? As I said from the beginning, my intent is not to argue the pros and cons of marijuana legalization, but the fact is: it is illegal to possess marijuana in Alabama. Technically, it’s illegal anywhere in the United States according to federal law, but recently the federal government has allowed for the states to determine the legality of marijuana. Again, I’m not going to talk about legalization. This discussion is purely on the legality of what he did. Whether it should be illegal or not, he did break the law. Hence, he did something wrong. This is inarguable. Thus, given he has broken the law already once, same as Smith did in 2012, he has a choice to make: does he let it consume him or does he rise above it?

Unfortunately, letting it consume him does not mean a downward spiral into the abyss of playing poorly, rather it means falling into a downward spiral wherein he continues to make the same “mistake” just because “it’s only weed,” like so many people are saying. Again, it’s illegal in many states, and because of that, it’s forbidden in the NFL. It doesn’t matter what anyone personally thinks about whether marijuana should (not) be illegal, as said before, what matters is what is. At this moment in time, it is illegal in many states and technically illegal on the federal level. As such, if Reuben Foster refuses to recognize and understand the criminality of the action, then he will continue to break the law and subsequently violate NFL substance abuse policy.

And that is exactly why Foster’s arrest matters: his actions were criminal, regardless of whether we think they should be or not. Where Foster, or any other celebrity/athlete, is concerned, they should never be held to a separate (higher or lower) standard of the law. Our personal opinions take away our objectivity on any given subject. Unfortunately, that is why I cannot give Foster a pass. I must remain objective.

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Philosopher, wordsmith, purveyor of the abstract, yet pragmatic and optimistically pessimistic. Words are like pins in a map -- a subtle change, no matter how minuscule, can change where we are and what we see. The aim is for clarity through brevity without complicity from duplicity or loss in specificity.

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