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Athletes, Marijuana and Reefer Madness: Run Ricky Run

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On Tuesday evening, April 27, in its heralded 30 for 30 sports documentary series, ESPN will broadcast in prime time the behind-the-scenes story—and tragedy—of Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams’ unfortuitous rise to pro football fame during this prolonged epoch of cannabis prohibition (which began in 1937).

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For college and NFL football fans of the late 1990s, no player has grabbed more controversial headlines, over a longer period of time, for really nothing more than preferring cannabis to alcohol, than Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams.

In a fascinating, multi-year documentary by Sean Pamphilon, a former ESPN producer, for the first time the general public and massive NFL fan base can watch the story that tracks Ricky’s amazingly erratic football career in Run Ricky Run, from his unwillingness to cut his dreads to play for the top-ranked and legendary University of Texas Longhorns (where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1998, college football’s top honor) to the New Orleans Saints where he was a top five draft pick, and finally the Miami Dolphins—all the while dogged by Ricky’s personal choice to continue to use cannabis while hugely influential and powerful institutions in American society (NCAA, U of TX, NFL and corporate sponsors) wrestled with his very personal (and consequential) choice, largely punishing him and making him something of a martyr in professional sports.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing parts of this fascinating documentary in the past and recommend this final production’s viewing as a way for us all to better understand the intersection of professional athletes, morality, the law and corporate public relations.

*Premieres Tuesday Apr 27 8PM ESPN

-Tuesday Apr 27 (11pm ESPN 2)

-Wednesday Apr 28 (4:30pm ESPN U)

-Wednesday Apr 28 (11pm ESPN U)

-Thursday Apr 29 (7:30pm ESPN 2)

-Thursday Apr 29 (11pm ESPN Classic)

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