The interview given by Colts owner Jim Irsay to Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star said plenty, whether Irsay intended to or not.
Setting aside for now the obvious curiosity regarding his refusal to apologize even for creating a distraction regardless of ultimate criminal liability, Irsay made a strong case for reconsidering a substance-abuse program that eventually dumps from the sport men who have not a habit but a disease.
“These diseases, both alcoholism and addiction, much like bipolar or depression and different illnesses, are still not seen as real diseases,” Irsay told Kravitz. “People shy away from seeking help because it’s viewed as being somewhat morally off the path, that they’ve lost their way. I really think the disease aspect gets lost when you’re talking about alcoholism and addiction; it’s not like you’re battling leukemia or a heart problem; it is that. But even in 2014, there’s still this stigma.
“That stigma gets carried forward and it’s unfortunate because people die and families get affected and people don’t seek treatment. It’s an unusual disease in the sense that the person has to diagnose himself. He has to realize that there’s this genetic disease you have to deal with through treatment. My grandfather and father both died of the disease, and you realize you’ve spent a lot of time on this path. Certainly, I have.”
So have players like Justin Blackmon, Daryl Washington, and Josh Gordon, among others. While the league indeed makes available treatment options for players who have tested positive and those who haven’t, treatment isn’t foolproof. If it fails to cure the disease, the player eventually becomes banished.
For Irsay, who explained that he has agreed to random testing to be administered by the local prosecutor with results sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the question becomes whether, if the disease persists despite the best efforts of all involved, Irsay will be treated like a player who can’t beat the illness — kicked out of the league for at least a year.
Regardless of any suspension or other sanction imposed on Irsay, failure to apply the same beat-the-disease-or-else mandate to him will mean that Irsay necessarily has had a lower standard applied to him.