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UPDATE: NFL suspends Irsay for 6 games, fines him $500,000

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The NFL suspended Jim Irsay for the first six games of the season and fined him $500,000 for violating its personal conduct policy, coming down hard on the Indianapolis Colts owner Tuesday just hours after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from an embarrassing March traffic stop.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said Irsay is barred from team facilities, practices and games and cannot represent the Colts at NFL meetings or events. The fine is the maximum allowed under league rules.

"I have stated on numerous occasions that owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players," Goodell told Irsay in a letter released by the NFL. "We discussed this during our meeting and you expressed your support for that view, volunteering that owners should be held to the highest standard."

The 55-year-old Irsay pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated and acknowledged during his appearance before a Hamilton County judge that he was under the influence of the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone when he was arrested March 16 near his home in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel.

Irsay did not comment outside the courtroom, but he apologized to Colts fans in a long prepared statement:

"I acknowledge the mistake I made last March and stand responsible for the consequences of that mistake, for which I sincerely apologize to our community and to Colts fans everywhere. Even more importantly, though, I am committed to do everything in my power to turn this whole experience into a positive event for myself, my family, and the community. In retrospect, I now know that the incident opened my eyes to issues in my life that needed addressing and helped put me on the path to regain my health.

"I truly hope and pray that my episode will help in some small measure to diminish the stigma surrounding our country's terrible and deadly problem of addiction. It is a disease like other progressive, terminal diseases — one that can only be successfully treated by understanding, committed hard work and spiritual growth. I am deeply grateful for the tremendous outpouring of love and support during these past few months from my family, friends, care-givers, and our great community. Please know I am firmly committed to staying on my path to good health and I look forward to a great season."

Irsay's case was closely watched around the NFL — not least among players — because there are few examples of the league punishing an owner like Irsay. Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand was suspended for 30 days and fined $100,000 in 2010 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy following his guilty plea to driving while impaired. A player with a first-offense misdemeanor DUI would not be suspended and would be fined no more than $50,000 under terms of the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association.

Police said an officer spotted Irsay driving slowly, stopping in the roadway and failing to use a turn signal. Officers said he had trouble reciting the alphabet and failed field sobriety tests. Various prescription drugs were found in his vehicle, along with more than $29,000 in cash.

Irsay acknowledged in 2002 that he had become dependent on painkillers after several years of orthopedic operations but said he had overcome the problem.

Irsay will be on probation for a year and is prohibited from drinking or possessing alcohol during that time. He must submit to drug testing during his probation and successfully complete a substance abuse rehabilitation program. Less than 48 hours after his arrest, the Colts said Irsay had entered a treatment facility.

Irsay's driver's license also was suspended for one year by Judge J. Richard Campbell, who asked Irsay about his history of prescription drug troubles.

"Yes, I've had it in the past ... when I was dealing with the effects after having surgery," Irsay answered.

Andre Miksha, the Hamilton County chief deputy prosecutor, said Irsay's case wasn't handled differently than the roughly 1,100 other intoxicated driving cases the office handles each year. He said the "vast majority" of such cases end in plea agreements.

He also said the terms of Irsay's plea agreement are typical for a person who faced first-time driving while intoxicated charges in the county just north of Indianapolis.

Irsay had resumed his duties with the Colts at the NFL draft in May and even made an unsuccessful personal pitch to his fellow owners on behalf of Indianapolis' bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl.

Irsay became the Colts owner in 1997 after the death of his father, Robert Irsay, and a lengthy legal battle with his father's second wife. Forbes magazine has estimated Irsay's net worth at $1.6 billion.

He has helped build the Colts into a top NFL team over the past decade behind quarterback Peyton Manning, now with Denver, and was a key player in the drive to bring the Super Bowl to Indianapolis two years ago. He is working with some success to rebuild the team behind young quarterback Andrew Luck while coping with a divorce that follows a decade-long separation from his wife of 33 years.

Irsay told the judge he is still under the care of a doctor and an orthopedic specialist who prescribe medications for him. Under terms of his probation, Irsay must provide officials with all current medication prescriptions. The NFL said Irsay will be subject to ongoing treatment, counseling and testing as determined by doctors.

Irsay, who is active on social media, is also forbidden from discussing the Colts or NFL on his Twitter account.

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  • insufficient penalty
    Landlord while I some what do agree with you I am just not sure what Mr Irsay's annual salary is ! All of the revenue of the Indianapolis Colts is not his not even all of the profit of the Indianapolis Colts is his so that is difficult to pin down.
  • so narcotics and DUI
    Denny that is correct ... the slap on the wrist is the same slap anyone gets for their first offense ... actually the 1 year license suspension is longer than most get for first offense. Who purported that the money was for purchasing anything ? Carrying large sums of money is not against the law in any state in the USA. Having your perscriptions with you is not against the law unless you can not prove they are yours. So Denny what is your point ? If your point is that Donald Sterling got a questionable deal then I agree but then I am just not sure how I feel about that situation but I do know that Mr. Irsay was treated as any other person would have been treated under the same circumstances !
  • insufficient penalty
    The appearance of holding Irsay to a higher standard masks the inadequacy of the financial penalty. The league office has advised PFT that there will be no monetary consequence beyond the $500,000. Which means that Irsay will otherwise lose none of the money that he will earn during the six weeks that he’s suspended. While the NFL’s constitution and bylaws cap any fine at $500,000, the league has no limit on the money that can be withheld when someone is suspended. Saints coach Sean Payton, for example, lost more than $5 million during a full-year suspension for an overhyped bounty program that he had no involvement in establishing or maintaining. Likewise, players routinely lose more than $500,000 during suspensions. Broncos receiver Wes Welker, for example, will lose 4/17th of his $3 million base salary, 4/17th of his $3 million roster bonus, and 4/17th of his $2 million signing bonus allocation as a result of his four-game suspension for violating the PED policy. That’s $1,882,578 in lost revenue for Welker. And that’s well over three times what Irsay, a billionaire, will lose during a 50-percent longer suspension. So while it generates a strong headline for an owner to be suspended, he’s not forfeiting anything close to the millions in revenue that will continue to flow into the team’s coffers. The team he’ll continue to own will continue to generate enormous profits that he’ll continue to be able to do with as he pleases. Ultimately, it’s not a real suspension unless the suspension comes without pay. In this case, Irsay is being suspended with pay — minus an amount that, given his net worth and the revenue that will continue to be generated over the next six weeks, is roughly the equivalent of a speeding ticket.
    • Denny
      Denny does have a good point. As crass, horrible and unacceptable as Sterling's actions were, he was more severely penalized for exercising his constitutional right to free speech. Mr. Irsay clearly (and admittedly) has a problem. Unfortunately Irsay chose to get behind the wheel of a vehicle - endangering not only himself, but potentially others. The choices that both owners made should necessarily have repercussions, and both did. The question is whether those repercussions have been appropriately metered out - one was a clearly illegal, physical action that potentially endangered the lives/property of others. The other was a reprehensible, but legal, exercise in the practice of free speech. It sure does seem like there are two different standards at play.
    • Really Denny
      Denny Are you that naive / really . His actions are in no way the same or NEAR as bad as Sterlings. You are reaching .
    • $29k isn't much to JI
      I don't quibble with anyone's opinion about the Rx or DUI, but having $29k cash is routine for him. He wasn't on a drug buy.
    • thought of you....
      thought you'd like to see this
    • $$$
      Why do they keep bringing up how much cash he had on him? Am I missing something?
    • So Narcotics and DUI is somehow not as serious as having a opinion?
      Let me get this straight...allegedly carrying a large quantity of narcotics, a large quantity of cash purportedly for the purpose of purchasing a large quantity of narcotics and driving under the influence gets Irsay a slap on the wrist but expressing an unfashionable opinion gets Donald Sterling's team taken away? I just don't understand this "culture" of ours. I just don't. I really freakin' don't.

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