As the status of Colts owner Jim Irsay continues to be unresolved, and as league observers continue to wonder whether Irsay will be held to a different standard (lower or higher) than players, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft has shared a perspective that suggests the league ultimately will impose significant discipline on Irsay for his arrest on multiple charges of operating a vehicle while impaired.
“I can tell you that since Roger Goodell became commissioner, the first thing Roger said to the room after he had gotten elected was that the NFL shield is the heart of our organization, and that all of us have the responsibility not to besmirch it, and that starts with the owners,” Kraft said Thursday at an event in Boston, via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “If you don’t carry yourself in a way and represent your business in a way that the public as a whole would deem as appropriate, there are going to be issues that affect your fellow partners. And that’s where I think these commissioners really do have a responsibility to make sure that the collective good is being maintained.”
While a suspension of Irsay before his legal case is resolved would constitute holding him to a higher standard in two ways (discipline prior to adjudication and suspension for a first offense), the deeper questions relate to whether the NFL will fashion a financial penalty that simulates the percentage of annual revenue taken from a player who engages in similar behavior and whether Irsay will be subjected going forward to the same type of aggressive testing that eventually results in a player being banished from the league, even if his use of prohibited substance is the result of what Irsay recently has called the disease of addiction.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello recently declined to state whether Irsay will be placed into the substance-abuse program, which covers only players, saying only that “[w]e ensure that all club personnel involved in substance-related incidents receive appropriate clinical care.”
Appropriate clinical care is one thing. Placement of the proverbial Sword of Damocles over the head of someone suffering from addiction is another. Players in the program deal with the reality that, eventually, one false move results in a minimum banishment of one year. If the NFL is going to continue to apply that standard to players, it must be applied to owners.
Or maybe the league should just quit applying that standard to players.