As a rash of suspensions and fines hit NFL players for misconduct off the field, the NFL has now sanctioned an owner with the suspension and fining of Jim Irsay after the Colts owner pleaded guilty to charges of driving while impaired.
The NFL owner joins a long list of suspensions for offenses such as drug abuse and domestic violence that have hit the NFL in the last year. In the last week of August, for instance, Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon was given a year’s suspension after a conviction for driving under the influence of marijuana.
Gordon, who had earlier tested positive for the drug, may challenge the NFL’s decision.
San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith was handed a nine-game suspension after being hit with charges of domestic violence and sexual assault. The suspension will cost the player $1.24 million in earnings.
Now, the NFL has also handed down its decision on Irsay. NFL chief Roger Goodell has suspended Irsay for six games and fined him $500,000.
“I have stated on numerous occasions that owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players,” Goodell wrote in a statement to Irsay.
Irsay was pulled over by police on March 16 for driving erratically. Authorities charged him with driving impaired under the influence of prescription drugs after police found several bottles of prescription drugs in his car.
A police-ordered toxicology test showed that Irsay had the powerful painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone in his system when he was booked.
Police reports said that during his arrest the NFL owner “continuously” had to be supported by arresting officers “in order to prevent him from falling over.”
The Colts owner pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and was sentenced to one-year probation during which time he will be tested for the drugs.
If Irsay tests positive for the drugs in the next five years, the misdemeanor count will be automatically upgraded to a felony offense.
Irsay pleaded not guilty to several other counts.
“The agreement’s terms are typical for first-time OVWI defendants in Hamilton County,” the prosecutors said in a statement. “Sixty days in the local jail is the maximum penalty available under Indiana law for a Class C misdemeanor. Count 2 was dismissed pursuant to the agreement.”
Isray released a statement saying he was “committed” to a “path to good health.”
I acknowledge the mistake I made last March and stand responsible for the consequences of that mistake, for which I sincerely apologize to our community and to Colts fans everywhere. Even more importantly, though, I am committed to do everything in my power to turn this whole experience into a positive event for myself, my family, and the community. In retrospect, I now know that the incident opened my eyes to issues in my life that needed addressing and helped put me on the path to regain my health. I truly hope and pray that my episode will help in some small measure to diminish the stigma surrounding our country’s terrible and deadly problem of addiction. It is a disease like other progressive, terminal diseases–one that can only be successfully treated by understanding, committed hard work, and spiritual growth. I am deeply grateful for the tremendous outpouring of love and support during these past few months from my family, friends, care-givers, and our great community. Please know I am firmly committed to staying on my path to good health and I look forward to a great season.
Still, some players have been watching this situation closely. Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, for instance, posted a Tweet saying, “I want to see what the NFL does about this Jim Irsay situation if a player loses a game check no matter the amount he should lose a game day.”
Many feel that owners should be held to an even higher standard than players. It remains to be seen if the NFL sanction on Irsay will satisfy critics.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com