Jim Irsay was charged with two counts of misdemeanor OWI on Friday afternoon before the holiday weekend. Though he wasn’t charged for the prescription medication in his possession at the time, sources told Indiana’s Fox 59 that the dosages were “inconsistent with a typical patient’s therapeutic need or Irsay’s prescriptions”.
“We want to thank the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office,” Irsays attorneys said in a bizarre statement. “for its professionalism in its investigation regarding Mr. Irsay and for devoting the necessary care and attention to determine the facts in this matter did not warrant the filing of felony charges relative to Mr. Irsay’s prescription medications.”
While they were at it, they should have also thanked the prosecutors for the timing of the release. Will Irsay be similarly appreciative of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when the league’s punishment is handed down, or will the Colts owner be made an example of?
Peter King, who’s typically regarded as sympathetic to management, writes that Goodell “has to be considering a large fine and removing Irsay from any involvement with the Colts for months”; King also writes:
And there’s one thing the commissioner must do whenever he does come down on Irsay: He has to include random testing, the same way the league random-tests players who run afoul of the drug program.
King spoke with NFLPA President Eric Winston. “If protecting the shield is the most important thing, and owners are the ones most responsible for the league’s future, the owners have to be held to a higher standard,” he said. “So I don’t understand how we can be talking about comparing the punishment of a player to what the league might do to an owner. Owners should be held to the highest of standards. And I can tell you, players are watching. A lot of players are watching. This has been on players’ minds for quite a while.”
It’s a little bit ambiguous whether King’s assertion of what Goodell “has to be weighing” and his advocacy for random drug testing are personal speculations, or if they were crafted with direct knowledge to what the league office is thinking. King certainly has access to Goodell’s inner circle, so it would be surprising if he weren’t at least reading the tea leaves.
“We do not provide timetables,” said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello in response to an inquiry about when Irsay would be disciplined. “When decisions are made, we make sure they are properly communicated.”
After Irsay chatter died down for a little while, calls for severe punishment have really flared back up in recent weeks. There wasn’t particularly similar outrage when Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his family were ordered by a judge to pay $84.6 million to real estate partners that they stole from (the case is in appeal), or for Jimmy Haslam, whose Pilot Flying J gas station chain is accused of systematically defrauding customers (as of yet, Haslam has not been indicted in the scheme, though feds have alleged that he was aware of it).
Whereas Wilf’s and Haslam’s situations are white collar crime, Irsay faces allegations similar to what players can incur. PFT reports that both the NFL and NFLPA are pushing for mandatory one-game suspensions for first-offense DUIs in the league’s new drug policy (which is still in limbo because the sides differ over HGH).
At this point, it seems likely that the NFL will discipline Irsay before his case is adjudicated in court, but that’s certainly not a foregone conclusion. It will be very interesting to see how stiff a punishment the Colts owner ultimately faces.