Time for Roger Goodell to step up and severely punish Colts owner Jim Irsay
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has not acted on Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay’s arrest, but the expectation is that he will ban Irsay for about half of the upcoming season.
According to a source with the NFL, Goodell is expected to suspend Irsay for six to eight weeks and impose a fine of $1 million as early as next week.
Irsay was arrested in March for driving while intoxicated and recently had his driver’s license suspended for a year. He was charged with two misdemeanors. Each one carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. An initial hearing is scheduled for June 19.
The 54-year-old Irsay entered a rehabilitation facility after his arrest. During that time the team was run by his daughter, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, in his absence.
Irsay was released from rehab and was in the Colts’ situation room on the second day of the NFL draft last month. He also attended the NFL meetings in Atlanta, where he made a pitch for Indianapolis to host the 2018 Super Bowl. The game was awarded to Minneapolis.
The NFL Players Association and players are both watching this situation very close. Some players, such as Washington Redskins safety Ryan Clark criticized Goodell and the league for not acting to discipline Irsay in a swift manner.
Clark pointed to Goodell’s decision to suspend his former Steelers teammate Ben Roethlisberger in 2010 when Roethlisberger was neither charged with a crime nor arrested after being accused of sexual assault. Clark said allowing Irsay to be part of the NFL owners meetings two weeks ago “shows the hypocrisy of the NFL and also Roger Goodell in the way that he deals with players and the way he deals for the people he works for.”
After hearing about Clark’s comments, Goodell said he wants to see how the legal case proceeds before handing out discipline.
“So when has having enough information been what Roger Goodell waits for to make these decisions?” Clark said on ESPN’s ‘First Take.’ “When does a charge necessarily warrant the penalty? We’ve seen in so many cases, Roger Goodell be judge and jury when it comes to players,” Clark said. “So here we have Jim Irsay, a guy, an owner, who has history of substance abuse, who’s found in a car with over $29K and prescription drugs that weren’t in his name, pulled over for driving under the influence, and now we’re saying we need more information? What more information do we need than these aren’t your prescription pills? You’re obviously under the influence. You have $29k. There would be no questions asked if this was a player.”
Those are questions that have yet to be answered. And the longer the league takes to deal with Irsay’s situation, the more people are likely to come around to Clark’s view that there’s a different standard for owners even though the league has said Irsay is eligible for discipline under league conduct rules.
Once again, Goodell must set an example and punish Irsay to the fullest. He has to put the good of the game above his pay grade. Irsay should not be held to the same standard as the players who tarnish the NFL’s sacred shield. He should be held to a higher one by Goodell.
Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand said in a letter that he wrote to Goodell, “… as we have discussed, those who occupy leadership positions are held to a higher standard of conduct that exceeds what is ordinarily expected of players or members of the general public.”
That was in 2010, after Goodell suspended Lewand for 30 days and fined him $100,000 after he pled guilty to operating a motor vehicle while impaired. Lewand registered a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit in Michigan of .08.
But what should Irsay’s punishment be? Fining a billionaire even a million dollars is nothing but a symbolic gesture, but forcing him to not have any interaction with his team for the first eight games and docking the team half a season’s worth of television revenue would send a bigger message than a $1 million fine.
I grew up in Indianapolis, and have been a Colts fan since Irsay’s dad, Robert, show up with the Mayflower moving trucks from Baltimore in 1984. I’ve been there through a 1-15 season, the bad coaches and management, the bad quarterbacks and the infamous 2001 Jim Mora “Playoffs” speech.
The good times rolled into Indy with Peyton Manning after he was taken with the No. 1 over pick during the 1998 season. During the new millennium, the Colts have been one of the NFL’s most successful franchises. But this situation with Irsay has left nothing but a big black eye on the organization and the league.
I’ve talked to several sources who have stated that some in the Colts organization knew of Irsay’s drug problems. While they wanted their boss to get help, they also decided to keep quiet and let Irsay go through the motions of not only representing the Colts, but their fans, the city of Indianapolis and the NFL.
While I’m hoping that Mr. Irsay gets to a point where he can control the demons that have allowed him to be in this terrible situation, I’m also hoping that Goodell understands that he has a duty to protect the integrity of the league. Even when it comes to one of his bosses.
While the league’s personal conduct policy does call for Goodell in most cases to wait for the end of legal proceedings. But there is a clause that says if the incident involves “significant bodily harm or risk to third parties, or an immediate and substantial risk to the integrity and reputation of the NFL,” he doesn’t have to wait.
Let’s be honest. Sports commissioners are not neutral. Just like in the HBO series “Game of Thrones” they’re the hand of the king. They’re management. In labor disputes they will always side with the owners. But in when it comes to disciplining Irsay, Goodell must make a statement to the Colts owner and others in the league – whether they’re players, coaches or front office personnel – that this cannot and will not continue to be accepted.
If he doesn’t then most NFL fans will continue to question his decision-making and look at him as the enemy at the gates, more than they already do. (Photo: David J. Phillip/Associated Press)