NFL isn’t applying a double standard to Jim Irsay, yet


It’s become fashionable over the last two days to accuse the NFL of applying a different standard to Colts owner Jim Irsay than the rules that are applied to players.  The truth, however, is that the NFL hasn’t applied a double standard when it comes to Irsay.


The NFL has treated Irsay no differently than players facing first-offense accusations of driving while impaired.  In those cases, discipline isn’t imposed until the legal process has concluded.

For Irsay, formal charges haven’t even been filed.  The league, under the standard applicable to players, won’t take action until charges are filed and resolved.

The better question isn’t whether the NFL has applied a different standard to Irsay, but whether the NFL should.  Misguided allegations of hypocrisy from the likes of Redskins safety Ryan Clark flow from the belief that owners should be held to an even higher standard than players.  The notion that L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling may lose his franchise for privately expressing pigheaded — but hardly illegal — views on matters of race invites a compelling argument that creating a public safety hazard should at a minimum result in swift and decisive discipline of some sort for one of the 32 people who hold the paper on NFL franchises.

The eventual question is whether the NFL will impose apples-to-apples discipline on Irsay, if he pleads guilty to or is convicted of DUI or a similar offense.  For players, the NFL collects a pair of game checks.  For a billionaire owner, what should the sanction be?  Two-seventeenths of the owner’s annual slice of shared revenues?

A truly fair punishment would result in a fine that would be regarded as staggering to the average fan — and that arguably would violate the league’s current bylaws.  Way back in 1988, the NFL increased the maximum fine to $500,000, the amount imposed on Patriots coach Bill Belichick for the Spygate violation.

The most pressing question, then, may be whether the rules should change to permit greater sanctions to be imposed on owners.  The idea that the owners are the ones who would vote on that change mirrors the dynamic of elected representatives voting on their own raises.

78 responses to “NFL isn’t applying a double standard to Jim Irsay, yet

  1. This is what I’ve been telling people since it happened. He hasn’t been treated any different than any other player. Plus he’s been in rehab for weeks, are you going to kick a guy while he’s down?

  2. I think you are forgetting that Ryan Clark was on the Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger was suspended 4 games for an accusation that he was never charged for.

  3. They’re not applying a double standard? Please, if this were a player he would be out a minimum 8 games already and it would be announced. This whole situation is another example of hypocrisy when it comes to the NFL.

  4. Jim Irsay will be charged on Friday just before the Memorial Day weekend…take that to the bank…the 2018 Super Bowl bid was lost so no reason to wait any longer …in the words of Broadway Joe: “I guarantee it”

  5. Irsay was also arrested for 4 counts of possesion of a controlled substance. Class D felonies. Why wasnt this mentioned? To be fair, gives us some comparisons where players have been disciplined by the League where drug charges are involved.

  6. Yeah it hardly matters at all that the NFL is taking their time to administer a punishment if those sanctions end up being shockingly severe to the average fan. There are multiple legal infractions to look at plus a potentially complicated issue to understand with regard to his mental health and/or addiction problem, and it’s not like you can just read one report and have a clear and full understanding of everything that contributed to this incident. Plus it’s always good to try and figure out some kind of solution or future steps to take when announcing the sanctions so that interested parties can figure out how to rectify the situation any way they can or prevent it from happening again.

    That being said I also think that if Goodell made an effort to gather all the relevant information needed as a top priority then he’d already know enough at this point to act. But he’s a busy guy and has a lot of other things to do and this task will get completed when it’s convenient for him.

    To me the Commissioner of the NFL should be powerful enough to figure out how to collect the relevant information and make a decision by this time so it doesn’t make me feel good that things are progressing slow. I mean if I was Goodell there’s a fat chance I would have many questions left unanswered at this point. The police and Irsay and anybody else useful should have had ample time to disclose details to Goodell so he can act, but I suspect that he hasn’t been proactive or aggressive in probing for information. Maybe he doesn’t want to ruffle the feathers of a powerful person by getting in his face when it could be construed by others as an inappropriate time to press Irsay for information. A litigious person would just sue him for abuse or harassment of course.

  7. The DUI is a misdemeanor. A meatball case compared to the four Class D felonies for possession of a Schedule D Controlled Substance. A more complete analysis would also list the Leagues policy with regards to Players with similar arrests.

  8. The penalty should be 2/17 of Irsay’s game revenues (gross not net) shared with all of the players.

  9. What’s an appropriate fine for Irsay? The guy is a multi billionaire. He had $29,000 in pocket change – literally – when he was pulled over.

    If they’re serious they’ll hit him where it hurts

    Take away his Twitter account.

  10. I don’t really get how this is a double standard. If I, an employee am late for work I get fired. If the owner is late for work…. nothing happens. It’s not a double standard its called the real world. Calling this a double standard shows a child-like conception of the concept of fairness. I’m not saying he shouldn’t be punished, but to act like it has to be just like it would for a player is ridiculous.

  11. 32 people who own the franchises? There is a little team in Wisconsin that has a few people splitting the ownership pie.

  12. Gotta love it, the rock star owner lol how dumb was he? Amazing, this guy just rolls around with over 30 G and drives around like its nothing. Surprised he even drives, would figure he has someone to do that deed for him. Just mind bogling a guy this dumb is smart enough to get the best 2 qbs of there generation! Gotta love the rock star owner, party on! Lol

  13. Of course it is. Goodell suspended Rothlisberger for 6 games BEFORE CHARGES WERE FILED. His reasoning (look it up) was that Rothlisberger’s conduct, whether he was charged or not, reflected poorly on the league. How does Irsay’s conduct not reflect poorly on the league? You are carrying the NFL’s water on this one. Goodell is a grade-A hypocrite.

  14. Outside of a Silveresque stripping him of the team, the only true punishments that would hit him hard would be cap space and or draft picks.

    1 milion to a billionaire? Nothing
    Suspending him 4 to 8 games? Nothing. Considering he’d still be “Clued in”.

    Cap space or draft picks would hit him hard. I guess 2/17ths of his share would hit him pretty hard, but that’s not going to happen.

  15. Well, I guess the overall question is, did Irsay break any rules as an owner? I seriously doubt that the owners are held to the same standards as players-let’s be serious here!

  16. You don’t fine a owner. That dude has multiple guitars that cost him twice that. Punish the team 2’first round picks at least. You punish his franchise cuz you can’t hurt his bank account. Hurt what he cares about.

    Oh and that crook owner of the browns needs something also!

  17. Oh yeah, it’s just a standard driving while impaired…. HA! A Briefcase full if pills and 26k on him. Come on, tell the truth….. Goodell runs PFT, right?

  18. Not true Mr Florio. Big Ben was suspended with no arrest and nor charges ever being filed.

    I think it was called conduct detrimental to the league at the time. I believe Goodell stated that the player did need not bee arrested to have punishment levied.

    Wasnt it one of the first orders of business for Goodell?


  19. Take his team! Repeatedly endangering the public safety is WAY worse than making some dumb off the record comments to a gold digger. Watch how well owners would behave if that were done. If the league can demand impeccable behavior from its players, that demand should be “good for the gander”.

    I love when goodell is caught in the rock/hard place situations. It’s guaranteed he’ll always pick the wrong course.

  20. Unlike some of the other Owners Irsay’s main business and money maker is the Colts franchise.
    It is what he has done ALL of his working life.
    Make him FEEL a cash fine, but not HURT him.
    If you REALLY want to make him hurt ban him from COMPLETE contact with his toy for at least 1 season. That will hurt him more than ANY cash penalty

  21. There is more information to be learned. Like the house Irsay bought that the woman OD’d in a month before a was charged with DUI and illegal drugs.

    Irsay ought to be suspended from his team pending investigation.

  22. Goodell fined Tom Benson (or the franchise, actually) the sum of $500,000 for that Bountygate fiasco. Half a million, that’s a nice round figure.

  23. I can’t believe the the people out there that believe Irsay should loose his team. There have been no charges filed yet, I am sure when all the legal stuff is done, he will be punished but its small minded people that believes the team or city should pay for his mistake. The Patriots hired a killer, what did they not do their background checks, should the lose the franchise…of course not. Players failing drug test violate the CBA and can be taken care of easy. Why do people keep bringing up how much money he has, having money is not against the law no matter how much he had on him and will not factor into any legal proceeding.

  24. PPL just don’t understand how many personalities he has to deal with as far as the players and making the fans happy.Toughest job of all the major sports.If he comes down on touchdown celebrations,half the fans love it while other half are outraged.comes down on gang activity and u got the fans in Philly moaning he jumping to conclusions.

  25. Goodell was quoted as saying Silver did the right thing with Sterling in the NBA. If endangering public safety is more harmful than racial talk, then I am sure Goodell will also ban Irsay for life and revoke his ownership rights. Right?

    The chances of that are slim and none, and slim just left town.

    Of course he shouldn’t lose his ownership. What the NBA is doing is a major over-reaction and probably illegal. By the time this is done it won;t be a big deal unless the NFL does a little grandstanding on it like they did with Belichick, and they fine him $500k.

  26. Do players even get a suspension for their first DUI? You guys make it sound like the players have it so rough when they usually will only catch a suspension after a couple of criminal acts and even then it’s only 4 to 6 games.

  27. Take his team? Hopefully you never get a DUI or a speeding ticket,they may take your house. It doesn’t matter what the NFL does,these guys aren’t public servants,they’re businessmen subject to their trade’s laws once the civil authorities are done with them. He may get his driving license revoked for 6 months and his car taken. Hardly a crime worth handing over a billion dollar franchise. Depending on what type of prescription drugs he had,it could lead to 6 months in jail. Will the NFL treat it as an addiction problem and wait until the law runs it’s course,more than likely. He’ll seek treatment and get suspended for a year from the team. I’m well aware that there are only three of us on the planet that ever did something wrong,so it’s ok to pass judgement,but you have to be realistic with the crime and punish accordingly.

  28. Why hasn’t he been charged yet? What are the cops and the DA waiting for?

  29. Take away draft choices and put him on 5 years probation. If he violates probation take away more draft choices.

  30. Not defending this mutt, but how can anyone be surprised if players(employees) are subject to different treatment than owners(employers)? I suppose people expect the NFL to test owners for steroid use, too. Apples and oranges here, folks.

  31. As stated earlier, Goodell set the standard when he suspended Roethlisberger upon accusation, not arrest. You might want to argue it was because of the “pattern” or “history” of Roethlisberger. OK….the league has known about Isray’s drug abuse problem since the 1990’s.

    “But Eyewitness News has learned the league’s knowledge of Irsay’s drug abuse goes back much farther than just last year. In fact, key NFL officials, including Tagliabue, were aware of the problems as early as 1995.

    They were aware because of Rene Conder, a former Indianapolis police detective who now for the first time is speaking in detail about her investigation.

    Conder was the prescription drug investigator for the Indianapolis Police Department in 1995, when she began looking at Irsay’s behavior as part of an investigation into Dr. James Dickerson. Dickerson had written Irsay numerous prescriptions for powerful opiates like Lorcet.

    The questionable prescriptions raised a red flag with pharmacies, which notified Conder. Her investigation that year ended with Dickerson losing his license and Irsay being urged into rehab.”

    The pattern is there. The history is there. The hypocrisy is there.

  32. Big Ben wasn’t accused of driving while impaired, and Goodell did his homework before suspending him.

  33. Big Ben was suspended after the police closed their investigation. If Goodell doesn’t suspend Irsay after the police close this investigation, then you can cry about a double standard.

    Goodell has routinely let the police conduct their investigation first before handing out punishment.

    See Ray Rice and Aldon Smith’s latest issues as current examples.

  34. All they can do is fine him. Suspending an owner will do no good. Do you think it’s fair to Colts fans that they take away draft pics over this? I don’t. Also, players don’t usually get punished too badly for this kind of violation either. If they fine him 500K then that is equal punishment to me. Goodell will do something about it sooner or later.

  35. So what do you want ? I guess he should not be allowed to play in the 1st 4 games. that would be equal punishment.

  36. With wealth comes privilege.

    There will be a lot of tough talk from Goodell but any penalty will be ridiculously unsubstantial.

    If you want to hurt an NFL owner — take away draft choices or take away cap room.

  37. The real problems that exist are that the NFL treats driving whole impaired as a minor issue and not the public safety issue it is. I’ll take my players getting stoned in their house over getting loaded and driving or popping enough pills to put a horse to sleep.

    Also, as Irsay had illegal drugs (prescription) is this not a substance abuse violation and not personal conduct which gives them more leeway.

  38. Irsay is getting bad advice. He should have sent a representative to the owners meeting an not attended himself. Or, maybe he is running his own recovery which is like a lawyer that defends himself….he has a fool for a client.

  39. Ben got suspended because the “player” had conduct detrimental to the league. I for one hope that we are not trying to compare a case similar to DUI to a couple of possible rape cases. not exactly apples to oranges there. Players are more recognizable to the normal fan. not every fan knows who owns what team, say as opposed to who the quarterback one of the most storied franchises. and who cares how much money irsay had on him. how much is the guy worth? maybe he was going to buy another guitar.

  40. The League doesn’t demand impeccable behavior from its players; it demands ethical, moral and legal behavior. You can still have a good time, just don’t break the law. If you want an example of “double-standards,” just take the case of Andy Reid’s kid, a known drug “felon,” eventually released into a treatment program, who proceeded to commit suicide at training camp, while “working” as an assistant to the coaching staff. Horrible incident, tragic, but, an example of how the rules don’t necessarily apply to those who are not players. Why he was even allowed near the team was an obvious question, but, hey, it was Coach Andy’s squad, so… much for rules.

  41. Owners have no standards to abide by. Honestly, the only punish for an owner of any sports is stopping them from making money. I dont see that happening.

  42. Totally agree with Clark. Punishment should be ten times more then a players punishment. Use the militaries example. A DUI for an officer is career ending, a DUI for enlisted is far less, reduce in rank and a fine is the norm and not career ending unless the enlisted continues to make mistakes. NFL should make him sell the team, period!

  43. the ugly truth is that people like irsay get treated differently because they don’t match what powerful people think a criminal is supposed to look like

  44. Ryan Clark is an idiot the Ben Roth. Issues was under the old CBA and therefore a mute point. The fact is that the league is trying to figure out what to do because they never dealt with an owner like this and they want to get it right all the way around. Be patient Irsay will get served and he will pay for his actions. As for Ryan Clark your 10 minutes of fame are up just retire after the redskins realize you are a bust.

  45. Florio is correct. There is no evidence of a double standard — yet. Yes, Roethlisberger was suspended before legal proceedings were concluded, but only after multiple instances of abusive behavior. And there have been plenty of players who have gotten into trouble, but the NFL did not act against them until the law had run it’s course.

    This is Irsay’s first brush with the law that I’m aware of, and maybe, in the end, a double standard will emerge. But we’ll have to wait and see what the NFL’s punishment is before we can fairly make that determination.

  46. they denied limbaugh PART ownership for the same thing and Irsay and Goodell led the charge. hows that for a double standard.

  47. Why is Ryan Clark not complaining about Aldon Smith not being punished yet? How many times has he been picked up…… SMH

  48. Take away 2015 2nd, 4th, & 6th round picks, $500,000 fine given to a victims of DUI crashes’ charity, and ban Irsay from Twitter for life.

  49. If Ray Rice is not suspended a year for punching his wife then Irsay should get off with a small fine.

  50. Billionaire owner couldn’t afford a designated driver? He should be banished due to stupidity alone.

  51. has Aldon Smith been suspended for his latest offenses? if not, there is no double standard.

  52. There absolutely is a double standard. Let’s be real here. I don’t condone Sterling’s comments, but what Irsay did was FAR worse. Donald Sterling expressed his controversial opinion in a PRIVATE setting. Jim Irsay was loaded on prescription meds that weren’t prescribed to him. And he was also driving. Donald Sterling hurt the feelings of some people with his ignorant views. Jim Irsay put the safety of others at risk by getting behind the wheel intoxicated. Irsay should lose the team, but at this point I think it’s pretty obvious that won’t happen.

  53. Your statement that, “The notion that L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling may lose his franchise for privately expressing pigheaded — but hardly illegal…..”
    rather ignores the fact the Sterling settled with the Federal Housing Authority to the tune of 2+ million dollars within days of his racist comments, for surprise, racial discrimination in renting apartments he owns, which is/was illegal.

  54. I wonder how many NBA owners would vote to take their championship game to the clippers playground. Humh, people are wondering why Indianapolis and Lucas oil stadium lost their bid for the superbowl. Just a thought.

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