Josh Gordon has decided to set the record straight. The gifted Cleveland Browns wide receiver, whose NFL suspensions thus far have overshadowed his superfluous talent during his three professional seasons, was recently suspended for all of next season due to a recent positive alcohol test.

My grandmother always said to never judge an individual unless you’ve walked 100 miles in their shoes. But that's a lesson that that's become increasingly lost in today's climate of instantaneous public jurisprudence, because the judgments about Gordon, specifically how dumb he must be to risk throwing everything away to an all-consuming drug addiction, have been flying around for years.

In his recent Open Letter to Charles Barkley, Chris Carter, Stephen A. Smith and other interested parties, Gordon and his Public Relations team have decided to address the issue head on.

As for Stephen A. Smith, whose recent bombastic proclamations included the statement that he was “done with Josh Gordon,” the young receiver replies, “That presumes we ever actually got started. How, exactly, can you be ‘done’ with someone you have never had a meaningful conversation with…?”



Gordon says he’s equally puzzled by the similar words and stances of Chris Carter and Charles Barkley, as well as others who he says traffic in lies and innuendo, and angrily refutes the notion that his life is in danger to what many perceive as a mushrooming problem with substance abuse.

“I am not going to die on account of the troubled state you wrongly believe my life to be in,” he writes. “I am a human being with feelings and emotions and scars and flaws , just like anyone else. I make mistakes – I have made a lot of mistakes – but I am a good person and I will persevere. If I have a problem, it is that I’m only 23 years old – with a lot left to learn.”

He talks about his background, coming of age in a hostile, rugged neighborhood in Houston, and offers some context to how he formulated certain acceptances and belief systems.

“I’ve come a long way from those mean [Houston] streets, but it’s clear that I can be a better me…,” he writes.

And he makes some excellent points that, while some see him as a failure, he’s actually a success when the circumstances are viewed in the aggregate.

“I also have succeeded,” he writes. “I succeeded by escaping a youth riddled with poverty, gang violence and very little in the way of guidance and support. I succeeded by narrowly avoiding a life of crime that managed to sink its clutches into almost all of my childhood friends. I succeeded by working tremendously hard on my craft and my body to even have a chance to play professional football for a living. And contrary to popular belief, I succeeded by overcoming my longstanding relationship with weed – because I knew I was risking my future over it.”

There are some problematic areas of the letter, one of which is the “You don’t even know me!’ refrain and defense, which sounds earnest, but fails to account for the fact that his actions and decisions, which he has bravely clarified, have nevertheless been detrimental to the success of the Cleveland Browns.


Photo Credit: USA Today

(Photo Credit: USA Today)


The fact of the matter is that there are many kids from rough neighborhoods who’ve done the right things when given rare opportunities, whether they be in graduate school, beauty school or the NFL.

But he does accept responsibility for his actions and admits that, along with everyone else, the most important person he has failed is himself.

I don’t know Josh Gordon, and as per my grandmother’s insistence, I refuse to judge him. I can’t call him an addict or an alcoholic. I can’t call him an idiot. What I can call him is a superfluously talented young man who still has a chance to do some great things in the years ahead.

I hope those great things come to fruition for him some day. He’s still very young, with a future, on and off the field, that is pregnant with possibility.

But whether this movie has a happy ending is entirely up to him and the path that he chooses to walk.

My peer mentors in college taught me that excuses are the tools of the incompetent, that build monuments of nothingness, and that those who specialize in using excuses seldom excel at anything else.

I like that he's speaking out and confronting others about their perceptions of him. I hope that he's equally committed to confronting what it is that has allowed him, thus far, to sabotage an opportunity that most people can only dream of. 

Thus far, Josh Gordon has specialized in using excuses. The time has come for him to start excelling at other things, namely making the right choices and growing into responsible adulthood. And maybe, just maybe, after that, he can get back to playing some football.