Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was suspended for the first six games of the season and fined $500,000 hours after he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of driving while impaired.
In handing down the suspension, which is the first for an owner since 1999, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote to Irsay: “I have stated on numerous occasions that owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players. We discussed this during our meeting and you expressed your support for that view, volunteering that owners should be held to the highest standard.”
Irsay, in a statement, acknowledged his mistake. “In retrospect, I now know the incident opened my eyes to issues that needed addressing and put me on the path to regain my health.” Irsay, 55, was arrested March 16 near his Carmel, Ind., home when police observed him driving erratically. He failed sobriety tests and a large quantity of prescription drugs, along with cash, was found in his car.
Goodell suspended him for violations of the league’s personal conduct policy and the terms of the suspension dictate that he cannot be present at the team’s facility; attend practices or games; represent the team at league or league committee meetings, at team events or league events; give media interviews or engage in social media — which will be especially difficult for the inveterate tweeter — regarding team or league matters. The punishment goes into effect at 5 p.m. EDT Wednesday.
The fine, the NFL noted in its announcement, is the maximum allowed under league rules. The NFL also announced that Irsay would be “subject to ongoing treatment, counseling, and testing as determined by medical professionals and the Indiana court.” Under terms of his plea agreement, he was placed on five years’ probation, is subject to drug and alcohol testing and forfeits his driver’s license for a year.
The team will not forfeit draft picks because Irsay’s “conduct did not have competitive consequences,” the NFL said.
The question of whether owners would be subject to the same discipline as players was something that was hotly debated after Irsay’s arrest last March and as Goodell handed down a number of suspensions to players. An NFL owner had not been suspended since Eddie DeBartolo was suspended for the 1999 season and fined $1 million after he pleaded guilty to a felony in a gambling scandal. In 2009, Bud Adams, the late owner of the Tennessee Titans, was fined $250,000 for making an obscene gesture to fans. Now, his treatment of Irsay indicates that owners will be held to a higher standard of behavior.
In Irsay’s absence, the Colts will be run by his daughter, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, General Manager Ryan Grigson and Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward.