Financial penalties and future treatment will be the key questions in Irsay case


A suspension that could last half the season, imposed before resolution of pending criminal charges against Colts owner Jim Irsay, could cause some to conclude that, in this case, the NFL did indeed hold an owner to a higher standard.  Players don’t get suspended for first-offense DUI, and players get a two-game fine for a first-offense DUI, not a suspension.

Still, a suspension represents only one of three different prongs to be considered.  The NFL also needs to give specific attention to the financial ramifications of the penalty, and the requirement (if any) of future treatment and testing of Irsay.

As to the dollars and cents, owners usually don’t get paychecks from themselves.  Instead, they receive large chunks of cash collected by the league office and distributed to the 32 franchises.  Is that what Irsay should forfeit for each week of his suspension?  The number would be staggering when considered in isolation, but nevertheless may be the only fair way to ensure that Irsay is treated the way a player would be treated.

The league apparently intends to gloss over the possible crafting of a financial penalty that would be comparable to a player losing a large chunk of his annual revenue by fining Irsay, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, $1 million.  (It’s unclear whether a fine of that magnitude can be imposed.  The maximum available fine is believed to be $500,000; it’s possible that the league will fine Irsay separately for each of the two misdemeanor counts Irsay faces.)  While $1 million is, you know, $1 million, Irsay is worth well over $1 billion — and he receives tens of millions every year in shared revenue from the NFL.

Even thornier than determining the right financial consequence could be establishing a treatment and testing plan that holds Irsay ostensibly to a higher standard than players.  For players, the substance-abuse policy provides extensive treatment opportunities but also imposes discipline for players who ultimately fail to respond to treatment.  Ultimately, the player is banished from the game.

Will the NFL put Irsay on a similar track?  Regardless of how it all unfolds, will Irsay find himself subject to an avoid-or-else mandate that, if he fails enough times, will result in Irsay being banished from the sport for at least a full year?

If Irsay doesn’t find himself in the same situation as a player who falls under the substance-abuse program, if will be impossible for the NFL to credibly claim that owners are held to a higher standard.  Indeed, anything other than testing and treatment and the threat of significant further discipline for Irsay will mean that the owner has been held to a lower standard.

20 responses to “Financial penalties and future treatment will be the key questions in Irsay case

  1. This is where you do the ol’ Ben Franklin test, one side represents the people you want to appease, and the other side those who are unhappy. The sanctions will have to be very clever in creation and explanation, or the NFL is going to have to find some way to work with Irsay and others to negotiate a joint-solution strategy orchestrated through the influence of all affected parties to come about to a customized and fully proper resolution of all matters and concerns at hand.

    Lots of room for error and disagreement does exist.

  2. Let me make sure I understand this. You are proposing that he not only be suspended and pay a HUGE fine (what he makes is irrelevant), plus suspend any league payments to him during the time of the suspention, but then on top of it you propose they then impose the normal testing/treatment that players get. And that’s somehow fair? Every time I think I see a double standard at it’s worst, folks manage to take it to a new level. If he needs to be treated like a player, treat him like a player. Not like a player and then some.

  3. Testing for the owners? They are held to no standards and they want to remain that way, so they will.

  4. It is against company policy for me to use illegal drugs where I work. That being said, it is absolutely ridiculous to suggest the owner of my company to be subject to drug testing even if he has a history of a drug problem.

    He sets the rules… I work for him. It doesn’t have to be “fair” if you are the one writing the checks. If the employees think its unfair and don’t like it, they can deal with it or leave.

  5. Trying to equate the owners and players is ridiculous. The players are employees and work for the owners. The owners are beholden only to each other…not the players, not the media or even the fans.

    The punishment should come from the other owners as a directive through the commissioner rather than from him. It is not a double standard unless Irsay is treated differently from other owners with similar infractions. If there are none, then Irsay’s punishment sets the precedent for future stupidity by other owners who cross the line.

  6. It almost seems like the NFL is playing a Robin Hood roll in stealing from the rich, and supposedly giving to the poor through charities. However, NFL owners have enough money that there can never be any kind of parity with fines imposed on players. This problem is solved in civilian courts with prison sentences (see Madoff & Skilling) for the ultra rich, but let’s face it, even having a ton of pills, first time offense, is tough to get any/much time for. My answer and I know many will think I’m insane: Give these guys multiple years of community service and let them benefit society. However it’s done though, the NFL has a tough situation on their hands.

  7. As usual, here at PFT good sense can only be found in the Comments section. No one will ever convince me that owners and players need to be treated equally. It’s ridiculous.

  8. Anyone remember the financial ramifications/parameters of Marge Schott’s 1 year banishment from baseball way back when?

    Also, if there were multiple weeks of revenue for the Colts taken away, I would look for a serious fight over salary cap ramifications and/or relief.

  9. I could care less what the NFL does to Irsay. I think the error was with the DA in Indy. I can’t help but think that if Joe Average Colts Season Tix holder was in Irsay’s situation, they’d have come away with more than 2 misdemeanors.

  10. Punish Irsay? Yes, but not in a way that punishes Indianapolis Colts fans. Which taking away TV money would do since it would inhibit free agent signings and take away from the fan experience in other ways.

    A suspension would mean no contact with the team in any way (except for members of his family) and not being at the stadium (not even in the nosebleed section. That would be a pretty severe punishment for any owner in and of itself

    I suppose he could share a Coca-Cola* with Robert Mathis during his suspension at a sports bar and watch the game on TV. Be a good experience for him as an owner

    *Goodell should prohibit Irsay from drinking along with any judicial sanction against it for at least a year.

  11. He has to considered in at least the equivalent of stage two of the “program” based on the collective bargaining agreement. This guy has been fighting this stuff for years.

    Take multiple draft picks away from the franchise. Either three consecutive first rounders or rounds one, two and three next year. Those are the things that eventually hurt the owner in the pocket.

  12. Some fans still don’t get it. According to Goodell, it’s about” protecting the integrity of the shield” and tarnishing the image of the NFL (at least that’s his story with regard to players). The NBA showed some class in taking away the Clippers from Donald Sterling for his behavior and I would hope that the NFL could at least keep pace with that precedent. Irsay has already participated in the Owner’s meeting, voted on issues effecting players and the game so this proposal is too little too late. He’ll just rule from afar and continue doing what he has been doing for years. $1M…LOL…chump change!

  13. Since when is there an owner’s policy handbook? I don’t think it’s a good idea to create policies where there are not laws. I don’t believe that Jim was operating a piece of equipment while on the job. I do believe that Jim, and all people, have a right to their own privacy in their personal lives. That way Jim has the space to assemble his life, mend relationships, and move forward so he can focus on running his organization.

  14. take away the team from him. after all he and goodel led the charge against limbaugh from not owning a small piece of a team for the exact same thing.

  15. Irsay is most likely negotiating with Goddell now on what he will accept or sue over…players don’t have that kind of leverage…

    And DUI? This is a lot more serious than a DUI – not that DUI is not serious. A player caught with all of that would be looking at a distribution charge, see Jolly, Johnny. Some nobody without serious cash wouldn’t even be on the streets. What crimes were committed to get Irsay all of those drugs – Prescription fraud, burglary, armed robbery? No wonder Indy is so violent these days if everything he was caught with amounts to a couple of misdemeanors.

    And that shirt he was wearing when busted!!! He should get a $500,000 fine for that. Only someone on hillbilly heroin would wear a shirt that hideous!

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