The six-game suspension and $500,000 fine to Colts owner Jim Irsay for impaired driving doesn’t sit well with a player who once received paychecks signed by Irsay.
Jerry Hughes, a 2010 first-round pick of the Colts who now plays for the Bills, said he doesn’t think Irsay’s punishment has any teeth.
“It’s kind of like a slap on the wrist,” Hughes told ESPN. “But it is what it is. It’s the business. . . . I’ll just let the numbers speak for themselves. I mean, he’s a billionaire, so I’m pretty sure [$500,000] won’t hurt too badly.”
Hughes is right: Losing $500,000 would bankrupt the average American and would be a lot of money even to a millionaire NFL player, but to a billionaire like Irsay, it’s nothing. Irsay was born into a rich family, inherited a billion-dollar business from his father, and openly talks about how he carries around tens of thousands of dollars in cash so he can do things like pass out $100 bills as he strolls through the crowd at Colts training camp practices. Irsay sending a check for $500,000 to the league office is like the rest of us dropping some change in a tip jar.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has pointed out that under league rules, he’s not allowed to fine Irsay more than $500,000. And who do you think made those rules? The NFL’s owners. If Goodell really wants to get tough on owners who break the law, he should push for a change in the rules that would allow him to fine owners the kind of money that would really matter to them. But don’t expect Goodell to take on his bosses that directly.
Short of a Donald Sterling situation, where an owner is forced out of the league entirely, there will probably never be a time when a commissioner gives an owner a financial penalty that really hurts. NFL owners have 10-figure net worths, and they’ve rigged the system so the commissioner can never give them anything more than a six-figure fine.