Jim Irsay did a stupid thing this past March. He drove while under the influence of drugs, and we’re not talking about your standard street organics here.
Irsay had hydrocodone and oxycodone in his system. In English, painkillers, and pretty strong ones. Pumping those down is reckless, but it’s the product of a larger drug problem he’s been working through for years, and those close to him have said hitting “rock bottom” may be the only solution.
He did that today. Twice.
First this morning he was finally sentenced for his driving under the influence. He was given a year of probation after pleading guilty on one DUI charge, and during that time he’ll have his license revoked.
Then came Roger Goodell’s justice. The commissioner has long said that those at the top of the league’s hierarchy — owners, team presidents and chairmen, coaches, the commissioner himself — need to be held to an even higher standard. They should be more than rich men who can buy their way out of trouble (even though they can). They should set the standard, not just enforce it.
So Irsay’s punishment was keenly anticipated to see if that accountability was upheld, and simply because an NFL owner crashing to this low is so rare. The result? A six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, and a fine of $500,000.
Half a season would have been better optically, because certain words sink deep into the earholes of those who roam the court of public opinion (sort of like a “lifetime ban” that really isn’t a lifetime ban). More importantly, an absence of half the regular season would have firmly established a precedent for that higher standard Goodell speaks of so frequently.
But six games falls close to that mark, and it’s still a significant chunk of time for Irsay to be completely cut off from one of the things that gives him great joy in life. He’ll be barred from the team’s facilities at all times until after the Colts’ Oct. 9 game against the Houston Texans. He also can’t attend any other league functions or meetings, and here’s the most painful part: he’ll be cut off from Twitter.
Lately whenever the personal conduct policy is mentioned, so is Ray Rice’s name. Goodell has admitted that by suspending Rice for only two games after the Ravens running back assaulted his then fiance and now wife, he failed. Today that’s even more evident after how the policy was used to punish Irsay.
With Irsay, it was used to set a precedent, even when dealing with a rich and powerful league figure. With Rice, Goodell did the absolute minimum.