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Why Don’t We Care About Dustin Johnson?

If Dustin Johnson was an NFL player, his professional sports career would be all but over.

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson

Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

If Dustin Johnson was an NFL player, his professional sports career would be all but over.

On Friday, details emerged about why Johnson was taking “a leave of absence” from the PGA Tour. Golf.com reported Johnson is actually serving a six-month suspension from the tour after a third positive drug test.

According to the report, Johnson has failed three drug tests — one for marijuana in 2009 and two for cocaine in 2012 and 2014. The positive test in 2012 earned Johnson a suspension, which was not made public.

Just to recap: three failed drug tests, two confirmed cases of cocaine use. If this was Roger Goodell dishing out justice, I imagine Johnson would never suit up again.

Josh Gordon might serve a 16-game ban for marijuana use, which according to the latest reports, could be a product of second-hand smoke. Similarly, Daryl Washington will sit out the 2014 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy related to marijuana.

If Gordon or Washington had tested positive for an even worse substance — I don’t know, cocaine — what kind of punishment would be issued? I imagine it would be an even lengthier suspension than 16 games, or perhaps a multi-faceted penalty that could include mandatory rehabilitation or a fine.

I am not advocating the PGA Tour to come down harsher on Johnson. I think a six-month suspension is fair, though I’m not sure if it’s as big of a wake-up call as Johnson might need. Johnson has apparently been using drugs for at least the past five years, so it’s hard to see six months away from the golf course would suddenly solve it.

His last suspension didn’t.

But for all of the criticism the NFL and Goodell receives about coming down with tough penalties for players, I do consider it to have a bigger impact in changing their lives … for the better.

For some, it’s not possible to change. How many times does Justin Blackmon make national headlines for the wrong reasons? Doesn’t Ndamukong Suh get the message already?

But there are cases like Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger — and potentially Washington and Gordon — that have been changed by their time away from the NFL, and that’s due to the actions of Goodell.

Tough penalties lead to positive change.

If Johnson was in the NFL, this story would garner much more attention — tenfold probably. But because it’s professional golf and doesn’t include Tiger Woods, it’s sneaking under the radar.

That might be good for Johnson, who probably wants to avoid all of the negative publicity. But it’s the headlines for suspensions that drive change. I just don’t know if this consequence is enough to change Johnson.

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