Eric Wickstrom

How Should The NFL Punish Colts Owner Irsay?

Created on Mar. 18, 2014 6:13 AM EST

Last night Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. He failed several roadside sobriety tests and was accused of possessing multiple prescription drugs in non-prescription bottles. He’s been charged with possession of a controlled substance and driving while intoxicated.


I assume that's what we’re going to be referring to him as of today?

After all, I awoke to people on morning sports talk shows stating he’s open to the same discipline under the NFL’s personal conduct policy that any player would be, that he’s to be treated the same as any one of them in the same situation.

However, there’s no way this can ever really be the case. Not when the owner’s team is worth an estimated $1.4 billion. What is the league really going to do to punish Irsay?

Ban him for a year?

Big deal! He goes on vacation and relaxes. His team posts an annual operating income of $65 million. When he comes back from his “punishment” he has $65 million waiting for him from the year he just missed. When a player is banned for a year they come back to nothing waiting for them.

Fine him?

Also no big deal. Let’s say the league fines him $1 million. Irsay wouldn’t even feel it. Again, he’s currently pulling down an estimated $65 million in profits a year. A million dollars is slightly more than 1.5 percent of Irsay’s yearly, team related, income. So, by fining him a $1 million the league is still leaving him with 98.5 percent of his money. To take that a bit further, Irsay is only 54. NFL owners don’t retire, they die. Usually well into their 80s. So assuming he hangs around until he’s 84, Irsay has 30 more years to make an estimated $2 billion in operating income. Based on those numbers, the league fining Irsay $1 million would be no more than a slap on the wrist.

Over the next 30 years, a million dollars is literally less than a penny for Irsay when compared to any ordinary Joe Schmo.

And that’s where the suggestion that owners are subject to the same discipline as players is ludicrous.

Wide receiver Justin Blackmon tested positive for Marijuana last season and was suspended for an entire season. Because of that failed test and his previous DUI arrest, the Jacksonville Jaguars can void $10.7 million of guaranteed money in the contract, if they choose. That’s in addition to the nearly $3 million of salary and roster bonuses the suspension cost him during the 2013 season. So, Justin Blackmon, who could find himself out of the league soon, will have lost $14 million of the $18.5 million of supposedly guaranteed money his rookie contract promised him. That would be nearly 76 percent of his potential career earnings.

Throw him out?

The above was just discussing potential career earnings for the next 30 years and not taking into account the Colts are worth $1.4 billion. Even if the league threw Irsay out forever and forced him to sell his team like MLB did with Marge Schott -- a highly unlikely scenario and the exact lifetime ban Blackmon is subject to for his next infraction -- he would still walk with well over $1 billion.

Are we still comfortable saying both owner and players are subject to the same discipline?

And none of this is meant to suggest a DUI is anything less than completely stupid, irresponsible and dangerous behavior. Or that the people who participate in this type of action shouldn’t be dealt with harshly by law enforcement. They should. However, pretending all punishments fit the crimes equally is crazy.

And the NFL pretending owners are subject to the same punishment as their workforce is at best, completely absurd.

Loading ...