Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay recently was booked on charges that he was driving a vehicle under the influence and that he was also in possession of prescription drugs. Rumors have since come out of the woodworks recently that Irsay has had issues and that this was only waiting to happen.
Irsay has since been charged with four felonies and has checked himself into a rehab facility.
But, Roger Goodell has a dilemma on his hands. Irsay is responsible for paying 1/32nd of the Commissioner’s salary. As we know in the NFL, money talks and BS walks. With that in mind, should Goodell throw the book at an owner that’s partly responsible for him being able to afford New York real estate?
The answer couldn’t be more obvious—yes.
Roger Goodell is building a legacy as NFL commissioner as the “new sheriff in town”. We all know that he has not been hesitant on completely hitting players like tons of bricks whenever they have encountered similar transgressions.
What makes an NFL owner so different than a player? If anything, owners ought to be held to a higher standard in the league than players, because if anything, executives are supposed to be those who we would expect to be above all of the off-field stuff that players get themselves into.
Cleaning up “the shield” shouldn’t simply mean trying to be judge, jury, and executioner in the realm of player misconduct. It should be able to guide Goodell’s judgment on owner misconduct as well.
Irsay should be suspended from being able to run the day-to-day operations of the Indianapolis Colts for as long as it takes for him to get his act together. Goodell should look at this as if Irsay was a wide receiver, offensive lineman, or even a quarterback instead of someone responsible for paying part of his salary.
Giving an owner a slap on the wrist for something that would earn a player a 3 or 4 game suspension would rightfully enrage players—as well as NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith. A slap on the wrist would also be a slap in the face to football fans. Such a message would be obviously that of, “No player pays my salary, so we can do what we want to him. But an owner we can let off the hook, because without them, I wouldn’t have my job as boss of North America’s largest sports league.”
Of course, the media—in an obvious case of playing favorites is also in on it. Most of the press coverage of the Irsay DUI was that he needed help, he’s a sympathetic person, and he’ll learn from this. These same media people, who by the way are around the same age as Irsay (hint-hint), and are even good friends with the Colts’ boss (double hint-hint) are ready to jettison a player out of the league for something similar, even if it was their first offense.
Goodell—now is not the time to apply a different defensive scheme to the same play. Don’t give an all-out blitz to a player, then play prevent defense when it comes to someone paying your salary. Send a strong message by punishing Irsay hard and showing that no owner (or an owner’s millions) is above the shield.
Or risk losing the respect of the players for the remainder of your tenure as commissioner.
Your call, Roger.