As the question of if and when and for how long Commissioner Roger Goodell will suspend Colts owner Jim Irsay for the incident that created a public-safety hazard in his team’s home market percolates among players and fans, it will take more than a suspension and a fine to prevent it from happening again.
Irsay needs to be required to submit to drug testing, like a player would be.
Peter King of TheMMQB.com notes the importance of imposing testing on Irsay. One unnamed retired player believes the testing should be even more stringent than the protocol applied to players.
“When that discipline comes, he ought to be tested daily,” the unnamed former player told King. “If they can test a player 10 times a month, an owner should be tested more.”
For now, owner participation in the substance-abuse policy and program are voluntary. At a time when more and more people are noticing the difference in the way the league treats players and owners, maybe the time has come to require all owners, along with other key team and league personnel, to participate in the program.
“[If] it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander,” NFLPA president Eric Winston recently told PFT Live. While that comment related not to drug testing but to punishment, the sentiment applies to any and all issues related to procedures that could result in player discipline.
“Owners own for decades,” Winston told King, reiterating the sentiment the free-agent offensive lineman articulated last week on PFT Live. “Players, if we’re lucky, might play for a decade. 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. 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.”
In some respects, owners are indeed held to a higher standard. The late Bud Adams was fined $250,000 for firing off a double-barreled middle finger several years ago; a player would be fined a fraction of that amount. Likewise, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo was run out of the league 15 years ago after an indictment arising from federal allegations arising from efforts to get a casino license in Louisiana. Mike Vick plead guilty to dogfighting and admitted killing dogs, and the league welcomed him back after he served nearly two years in prison.
In other respects, owners continue to be held to a lower standard. When it comes to substance abuse, there’s no standard.
At a minimum, owners and other key personnel should be held to the same standard when it comes to the league’s position on alcohol, marijuana, and other recreational drugs that don’t enhance performance. Unless and until that happens, other owners could end up creating public-safety hazards in their home markets, too.