Tom James: ‘Fans Embarrassed For Irsay’
Six months after being arrested on drug charges, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has been suspended for six games and fined $500,000 by the NFL. Irsay will not be allowed at the team facility, cannot attend practice or league functions and cannot be active on social media during the suspension.
With the punishment official, now everyone hopes that Irsay, who claims he has been sober since his March arrest, is actually back on track. Is he?
“From what we understand, yeah,” Terre Haute Tribune-Star Colts beat writer Tom James said on Ferrall on the Bench. “Part of the deal in the courts here in Indiana is that he has to be drug tested. So they will be keeping track (of) him. That’s part of the plea agreement. He will be drug tested on a regular basis at any time. He won’t know when it’s coming. They’ll keep an eye on him. His driver’s license has been suspended for a year, and he’ll have to go with some of the policies that the court prescribed and we’ll see what happens.”
Many wonder if Irsay pooled the wool over everyone’s eyes. They wonder if he’s been using drugs and partying for all these years.
“I think a lot of it – and from everything we understand – he had been having some major medical issues and had a really bad back dating back to his college days at SMU, where he played football,” James said. “He had had medical procedures on his back, they prescribed pain killers for him and that’s kind of how he fell off the wagon.”
In handing out Irsay’s suspension, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said owners must be held to a higher standard than players. A player who pleads guilty to a DUI gets no suspension and a $50,000 fine for his first offense. Irsay got considerably more on both fronts.
“I know that there are a lot of people around the country who think he should get maybe a year suspension or be fined a lot more money or the Colts (should) be docked a draft pick or something, but most people will think it’s pretty fair for his first offense,” James said. “Yes, he admitted to things in the past, but this is the first time where the legal situation has come into it where he’s been arrested and had to go through the courts, and I think that’s the big difference.”
James believes that Irsay’s drug use is directly tied to his back ailments.
“From being around him, seeing him around the team and seeing how he had really had lost a ton of weight – he really looked bad,” James said. “He could barely move. There were times during interviews where he had to sit in a chair because his back was hurting him so much. For the media that’s been around him on a regular basis, we saw the pain he was going through. That’s not a far-fetched thing to the media that have been around him a lot”
But what about the fans? How are they reacting to this?
“I’d say 75-80 percent of fans probably support him,” James said. “I think people feel let down. They feel embarrassed for him. He’s been a major contributor in this city for a lot of projects and a lot of charitable things and he’s brought a lot of things to the city. I think generally people like him. I think the fans of the team like him. But I think they also feel embarrassed by the publicity and all the things that goes along with being suspended, being arrested, going through the courts and the whole situation.”
The Colts open the season against the Broncos in Denver on Sunday Night Football.