How should the NFL punish Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay?

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Colts owner Jim Irsay faces four felony counts of a controlled substance as well as a misdemeanour charge of driving while intoxicated after being arrested in March. If convicted on the felony charges, Irsay could face six months to three years in prison on each count. Given Irsay’s substantial wealth, he can afford to pay for the best lawyers money can buy. But, facing the league’s punishment is another story.

Should owners of professional sports teams be held to a higher standard than players? The answer is yes. Bottom line, Irsay knows better. You don’t amass that kind of wealth and business knowledge by making stupid decisions in life. Sure, we all make mistakes, but Irsay was arrested carrying $29,000 in cash. Couldn’t he afford to take a cab?  And possessing prescription Xanax, Darvocet and Ambien (not his prescription, mind you) is just plain irresponsible. Again, Irsay should’ve known better.

Three months have passed since Irsay’s arrest and Commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to make a ruling. Will Goodell make an example of Irsay? What type of punishment seems fair? A monetary fine to a billionaire is the equivalent of checking the couch cushions for spare change for most of the general public. A suspension seems likely and would force Irsay to be removed from his team and all of its activities. Random drug testing seems like a no-brainer, as well. Goodell needs to be firm but fair in handing down his punishment and should demand full cooperation from Irsay in the matter. 

But it’s not like Irsay is opening up or even apologizing about his arrest.  "I don't think that's something I'll address right now," he said. "There are certain things I want to say that I can't say. We need to let the process go forward and I'll address that later. I'm a human being; if there's something I have to apologize for, I would, but at this point, it wouldn't be appropriate.”

Maybe this will serve as a wake-up call. Maybe it won’t. Irsay’s apparent addiction remains somewhat of a mystery. And this is where the commissioner needs to step in regarding this unique situation. We, as fans, are somewhat used to hearing about players busted for illegal substances and fully expect a suspension or worse. Goodell’s reign in the NFL has delivered swift action towards players who get themselves in trouble. Irsay deserves no special privileges. No “get out of jail free” cards. And definitely no slap on the wrist.

There’s no denying Irsay’s role in developing the Colts franchise since he assumed ownership of the team in 1997. He’s had to make difficult decisions like releasing Peyton Manning. He’s made smart decisions like drafting Andrew Luck. Now he needs to make the tough decisions about his life, his family and his future.

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