Football player Laremy Tunsil took a salary hit of at least $8 million after a bizarre video of him apparently smoking marijuana surfaced ahead of the NFL draft Thursday. The video, mysteriously posted on his Twitter account minutes before the first round of the televised draft started, depicted a person smoking from a gas mask equipped with a bong.
Tunsil, an offensive lineman from the University of Mississippi, had been expected to be drafted 6th by the Baltimore Ravens and would have received a $20.4 million contract, according to Spotrac. Instead, he wound up being picked 13th by the Miami Dolphins and now is expected to get a deal worth $12.4 million. Although his future compensation is based on performance, Tunsil stands to lose millions more if the Dolphins choose not to exercise their option to employ him for the 5th year on his contract.
"Players picked #1-10 earn more than those picked 11-32 in that case," Spotrac's Mike Ginnitti explained in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.
CBSMiami.com reported that Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said the team had been aware of the video's existence well before the draft. Grier and Tunsil both said the video was two years old.
The approximately 30-second video was quickly deleted from Tunsil's Twitter account, which was then deactivated. "Man, it was a mistake," Tunsil told reporters Thursday. "It happened years ago. Somebody hacked my Twitter account, and that's how it got on there."
That could be a plausible explanation, according to Washington Post, considering some the player's personal issues. "On Tuesday, Tunsil was sued by his stepfather, Lindsay Miller, who contends that he was attacked by the lineman in June and subsequently defamed when Tunsil claimed that he was acting in defense of his mother," according to the paper.
Miller denied leaking the video.
Other issues around Tunsil, who was suspended for seven college games last year for receiving impermissible benefits, worried NFL executives, the Post says.
In light of changing attitudes toward marijuana, the economic consequences for Tunsil's actions shouldn't have been so dire, according to Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Association for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
"One can understand 10, 20 years ago, how this could be damaging for a potential professional athlete," he said. "However, four states have legalized marijuana, 20 states decriminalized it, and 24 states have medical laws for it."
A spokesman for the NFL Players Association couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Though NFL teams have become increasingly reliant in recent years on analytics to measure a player's physical potential, they are reluctant to invest millions of dollars on players whose character could be in question.
Case in point: College quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was picked 22nd in the 2014 draft. His once-promising career at the Cleveland Browns was cut short amid concerns that he was more interested in partying with friends than playing in the NFL. Manziel also was recently indicted on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence following a complaint from an ex-girlfriend.