Intentionally or not, Irsay makes case for compassion as to players


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.

45 responses to “Intentionally or not, Irsay makes case for compassion as to players

  1. This guy is such a piece of garbage. Not because he’s an addict, I sympathize with that. But because he’s always playing the victim card. He’s so delusional and arrogant.

  2. Seems to me the stigma isn’t against addicts per se, it’s against a moron who goes driving around while high as a kite with a suitcase full of pills endangering everyone around him.

  3. Well I do have to say that while Goodell has moved slowly, he has indeed one-upped the NBA Commissioner in being tactful about avoiding a lawsuit as a response to what decision is made. I applauded the NBA Commissioner’s statement loudly at the time, but I think Goodell’s restraint scores 1 point for wisdom and another for appropriateness. When you are dealing with deep-rooted emotions of the human psyche, there are quite a complex set of intertwining variables that should be respected and appreciated for exactly what they are. Now if you aren’t one of those people that have a complete understanding of how a human brain works, then you should be careful about rushing to judgment and action in some situations.

  4. He’s not in trouble because he was drinking alcohol or has alcoholism, he’s in trouble because he was drinking and driving.

    Likewise, Gordon isn’t suspended because he has an addiction problem, he’s suspended because he’s addicted to an illegal drug.

    That’s a significant distinction this article doesn’t address.

  5. If I fail a drug test I get fired, it’s as simple as that. Why should I feel sorry for a guy that can’t stop smoking weed or a guy who isn’t smart enough to hire a car service before he goes out.

  6. Sorry, –I know I will get many dislikes — It is not a disease if it can be cured by simply not doing something (don’t drink/smoke/shoot) It is a weakness of mink/body/spirit. My life really sucks modt of the time, most people’s do, and most do not go over the edge, because they can take control and face the consequences.

  7. He owns the fricking team, hell if he stays behind closed doors and does this then it won’t effect anyone but him, because the team can be ran by others.
    The same can not be said about active players, so no the same standards do not apply.

  8. Or you just don’t have any will-power or moral compass or filter for the things you say. If you want to change, you get help, he sought out help after he got in trouble. I have no respect for that.

  9. “and god help you if you are a phoenix and you dare to rise up from the ash. A thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy while you are just flying back.”

    -Ani Difranco

  10. I don’t sympathize with him driving under the influence,I can empathize with his problem. Alcoholism is rampant on both sides of my family. I don’t touch the stuff or anything else,I’m even mindful of medicine. I’ve seen how people don’t realize they’re addicted or if they feel there is a problem,they apologize and stop for a while only to start again. no one forces them to do it,but once it starts,it’s a beast to contain. Don’t suspend people for the illness,suspend them for the opportunity to get help. Telling the guy you have zero contact with us and I hope you get help isn’t good for your investment. Help him get better.

  11. He’s an embarrassment to the NFL and other owners. He envies his players. Uses Twitter like a 16 year old girl.

    The NFL needs to come down on him like a ton of bricks.

  12. Um, disease or not, he is the OWNER of his team! He’s one of the 32 rich guys that allow the NFL to exist. The league and the commish can suck it as far as I’m concerned. If he dive bombs into his addiction, then, fine. But, until then, he’s the guy cutting million dollar checks to the employees on his team. Without Irsay and the other 31 owners, there is NO NFL.

  13. Hope one of the conditions is he leaves twitter, was embarassing reading some of his views on it previously.

    He inherited an NFL team, has been totally spoilt all his life and this happens. He doesn’t realise how lucky he is.

    Hes lucky hes got the money to go to the best treatment centres unlike many thousands of people who cant get treated at the best places for their addictions

  14. I understand people have addiction problems but what about the majority of players who don’t and work their butts off and understand how what they do effects their fellow teammate. Too much attention on feeling sorry for the people who have drug problems I feel for the ones that their problems effect.

  15. Kudos to PFT and MF for championing the real issue facing these suspended players and owners. Keep it up! The NFL is in a tough spot. I do not understand or know all of the steps in the substance abuse program that a player must fail before earning a year long suspension. If it allows adequate time and “slips” for a “self-diagnosis” (as Irsay calls it), then perhaps such a serious consequence is necessary to help the player or owner hit bottom. If not, it needs to be more treatment oriented. The painful truth is that a percentage of addicts and alcoholics never recover. ALL true addicts and alcoholics either recover, become institutionalized or die. There is no middle ground. None.

  16. Driving under the influence, enough pills to kill a stud farm and $29,000 in cash. I only have one thing to say. “Juno what a hassa is Frank?”

  17. This blowhard billionaire has been conning the city out of millions since the family got here, while the power brokers just ignored his “disease” because of his connections/money. Indy (taxpayer money) recently paid him serious coin to do “renovations” to a newly-built stadium. Yet, he’s the victim in all this. Please. Shut up and go away.

  18. Haha so Gordon, Blackmon and Washington are marijuana addicts are they?

    It’s not even addictive!!!! Even if it was they probably aren’t using it every day like an alcohol or pills problem.

    These players are fools. And they deserve to be treated as such.

    Irsay has a real problem with drink and pills that needs treatment in a rehab facility. For that I feel some sympathy for him.

    For drink driving he deserves a severe punishment as he’s meant to be an upstanding citizen but instead he’s a dead beat risking his life and others.

  19. Possibly the dumbest person in sports right now. Mr Sterling says thank you! Sad how Irsay suffers from extreme wealthyittis too really sad.

  20. “Choices” are not “diseases” moron….
    Take responsibility for your choices.

  21. I assume that everyone judging Irsay has never known someone, or been addicted to alcohol/drugs themselves. Lot of perfect people out there!!

  22. He owns the fricking team, hell if he stays behind closed doors and does this then it won’t effect anyone but him, because the team can be ran by others.
    The same can not be said about active players, so no the same standards do not apply.
    If he had stayed behind closed doors, this article would not have been written. COME ON MAN

  23. I don’t know that I agree they are “diseases” per se. Anyone can become an alcoholic or addict. There is an element of choice and self-control involved. That doesn’t mean I think we should throw the book at people who get addicted, far from it. But the word “disease” makes me uncomfortable. Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses are diseases. Addiction is not quite the same.

  24. @chaney13 It’s not so simple as “just stop doing it”; addiction comes in two forms. First is the habit form where the person does it because they’re used to doing it. This is the just stop doing it form; it can be hard to stop, but with a little coaching it’s perfectly possible. That’s not to belittle this kind of addiction, as it’s often tied to emotional reactions. Often the addict feels that he cannot function without the substance/action, and that feeling is just as powerful as phobias and psychological disorders.

    The second form is the actual disease form; where your body has become physically addicted to the substance. Alcoholism isn’t a bad habit that needs to be broken, but a state in which your body has become dependent on the substance to survive. If you’ve heard of DTs or detoxing; that is the process of teaching one’s body to survive and function normally without the substance.

    In both cases the person has often created the circumstances of their addiction and should be responsible for their actions, however, that doesn’t mean it is easy to do. Dropping an addiction cold turkey successfully is an incredibly difficult task; because often as not the addict has to address the root cause of their addiction before they can address the actual addiction. In other words what drove her to drink to the point her body needed alcohol to survive?

    You’re dismissive of addiction because you’ve not needed to find solace in the bottom of bottle. Good for you. Irsay has, hopefully he’s addressed the root cause of his addiction and found new ways to deal with them. Otherwise we’ll be having very similar discussions over the years until it finally kills him. But to suggest that either his mind or his body hasn’t convinced him that he must consume pills to survive isn’t as difficult to overcome as cancer can be is ignorant. It’s not just about having will power, but fighting your personal demons. Some people deal with them better than others and often times those with addictions do have a genetic disadvantage.

  25. But that’s the rule. Not just in the NFL but all of real life. You test positive at a job and your done, not suspended. Done.

  26. Listen to all the owner slurpers lapping up this hypocrites excuses like a wittle kitty laps up his daily milkies. You’re all just as pathetic as irsay.

  27. The fact is insurance companies don’t pay for individuals making poor choices but do for recognized medical conditions; like it or not addictions are considered a legitimate medical condition. Some steppers are able to achieve periods of sobriety however until the underlying condition is addressed there is no resolution and these people live their lives in a revolving door. Many football players suffer from chronic pain disorders the likes of which, the regular Joe-citizen fan will never be able to grasp and choose to self-medicate with marijuana, which has been recognized and legitimized in most states for medicall use, and is far less harmful to the body than artificial chemicals which aren’t approved by the NFL either. Time for the NFL to come into the light and do something for these guys as fines and suspensions have no effect. Driving under the influence and putting the public safety in danger is inexcuseable, what a person does privately is not the same and should not be punished more severely.

  28. Anyone who has gone through addition issues with a loved one has a better understanding of what Irsay was trying to say. He is an addict in the early stages of recovery. When addicts are using it alters their brain chemistry and they become sub humans acting out on primal instincts. A non user can’t make sense of their thinking because addicts make no sense and are concerned only with getting their next fix. Rich or poor they are all the same. Addiction is classified as a disease by the AMA.

  29. Let’s be clear, Jim Irsay isn’t charged with drinking in his own house. He’s charged with drinking and driving.

  30. If a person has a disease like leukemia or cancer they may be unfit to play pro football.

    By the same token, if that player has a disease like alcoholism or drug addiction they may be unfit to play (or own) pro football

  31. I would say the nfl does show great compassion towards the players. Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t it take multiple fails before a suspension, and after the first fail don’t they have to go to some sort of rehab? They get out if it what they put in the program.

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