3 Lessons Job Seekers Can Learn from Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon

By Bob Evans
In April 14, 2016

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In the case of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, we are not saying he is insane, but his continued disregard for workplace rules is writing a “what not to do” of sorts when it comes to violation of workplace rules.

For those of you not familiar with the story of Gordon, it all starts when he was just getting started as a collegiate athlete. Coming out of high school, Gordon committed to play football on scholarship for Baylor University. During his sophomore year, he fell asleep at a Taco Bell near campus with a teammate. After further investigation, police found marijuana in his teammate’s car which prompted Gordon to be suspended for his first violation and his teammate to be kicked off the team for his second violation.

Now, usually an action like this would be a wake-up call for a gifted athlete like Gordon—but that was not the case. Less than a year later, Gordon was suspended indefinitely from the Baylor football program for failing a drug test and testing positive for marijuana. This led to Gordon’s transfer to Utah a month later, but he would never see the football field and opt to enter the NFL’s Supplemental Draft in 2012.

If you are a Cleveland Browns fan, you know the history from here. The Browns gave up a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft to take Gordon in the second round of the 2012 Supplemental Draft. However, due to his collegiate drug use, Gordon would enter the NFL under a microscope before violating any rules for his new employer.

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Like many of you with your employers, Gordon was provided a contract from his team which included rules and stipulations he must follow in accordance of league rules. One of those rules was that he would be subject to random drug tests to test for banned substances, which included marijuana.

Unfortunately for Gordon, he would not abide by the rules he agreed to in his NFL contract—and he was suspended just one year into his career. After making it through the 2012 season, Gordon was suspended for four games without pay (lost pay for four games total) to start the 2013 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Reports were that he failed a test due to codeine use, which Gordon stated was in cough syrup he used for strep throat. The NFL must have found some credence to that story, as they reduced his suspension from four to two games.

Thanks to the combination of his collegiate violations and early-career violation, Gordon was reportedly firmly in the middle of the NFL’s substance abuse policy—which includes various stages and increased testing as you move up those stages. Despite receiving letters in regard to where he was in this policy, Gordon would continue his use of banned substances under the contract he signed with his employer—leading to a major suspension from the league for the 2014 season.

Gordon would initially be suspended for the entire 2014 season, but it was later reduced to 10 games which allowed him to return for the final six games of the 2014 season. But his suspensions would incredibly not stop there, as he was suspended for the entire 2015 season after failing yet another test for banned substances following the 2014 season.

Fast forward to April of 2016, where news just came out this week in regard to Gordon’s application for reinstatement to the NFL for the 2016 season. The decision from the NFL was a denial of reinstatement, as reports have surfaced that Gordon yet AGAIN failed another drug test for banned substances. He can re-apply for reinstatement on August 1st of this year according to reports.

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Okay, I am going to give you a few moments to let all of that sink in if you did not know the Gordon story in advance. Still with us?

So what can the legend of Josh Gordon teach us in regard to our own jobs? Well, there are three simple lessons.

Know your contract

While it is hard to believe Gordon and his agent did not know their NFL contract in and out, normal job seekers may not do the same due diligence when it comes to their own contracts. Some of us are so excited to get the offer letter and take the first step toward our new career, that we may not see some important stipulations in there.

Non-compete agreements, when your benefits start and when you can use vacation/sick/personal days are just some of the common items job seekers seem to not understand when they go into a job. Once they see the salary and start date that is all the info needed—time to sign on the dotted line and get paid!

Understand your company’s drug policy

This may seem like a no-brainer, but with different states changing their laws in regard to the use of recreational drugs, clarity may be necessary. For example, just because marijuana use is now legal in the state of Colorado, it does not mean you can keep your job if you fail a drug test. Some employers, like the NFL, could still maintain the right to terminate your employment if you fail a drug test. If you live in one of these states, review these rules as they apply to the new laws.

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You should also understand what drugs are covered under your company’s drug testing policy. Marijuana is not the only drug a person can fail a drug test for, there are prescription and over the counter drugs that can trigger your failure of a test as well. If you are prescribed a certain medication that may trigger a failure, professionals suggest to provide documentation from your medical professional to your company in advance so there are not any issues.

Do not let a temporary joy impede your career goals

Nobody truly knows whether or not Gordon loves the game of football, but his continued disregard for his employer’s rules suggest he does not love it more than the drugs he is using. This young man was on track to become one of the top wide receivers in the entire NFL after just two short seasons in the league, but his career has since been derailed thanks to his repeated failure of league drug tests.

While the majority of you are probably not in the same boat, it is important to remember that you have career goals that small things could get in the way of. We have talked about workplace conversation topics in the past to avoid, posting feelings about your job on social media and other actions seeming good at the time, but in the long run they could hurt your career goals.

Take Gordon’s repeated behavior as a chance to prioritize what is important to you in your career. If there are little items like office drama and gossiping that you feel are getting in your way of being more professional, stop doing them tomorrow. Find yourself posting negative feelings on social media too often? Stop hitting the Tweet button right now.

There’s a lot you can learn from the missteps of others, so take this moment to learn something from Josh Gordon.

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Bob is the Digital Content, Marketing Manager for NexGoal and has been writing in the digital world for 10-plus years.