Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested last night for allegedly driving while intoxicated and for alleged improper possession of prescription drugs, a fact confirmed this morning by the team itself and acknowledged indirectly by Irsay himself via social media this afternoon. Irsay previously had a DUI arrest more than a decade ago, but had since professed to have given up alcohol whenever he was asked about the subject in interviews. He’ll likely face some form of discipline from the NFL, and may be compelled by the league to enter substance abuse treatment in exchange for avoiding the harshest of sanctions. The arrest is merely the latest chapter in what has been a high profile and enigmatic tenure as team owner, complete with ups and downs on and off the field.
Irsay is one of the few NFL owners who regularly communicates directly with fans via his personal Twitter account, sometimes making official team announcements, other times holding trivia contests with team-related prizes, and occasionally posting indecipherable tweets which vaguely read like a mashup of rock music lyrics. The latter has been largely written of as part of his eccentric persona, but may now be re-examined in light of the fact that he has, in at least this one instance, apparently relapsed. Questions will now be asked as to whether his less coherent moments online have been a result of alcohol or prescription drug abuse, and he’ll have some explaining to do.
Thus far Irsay has only offered gratitude today, while not addressing the legal chargers nor apologizing for any transgressions. “Deepest [thanks[ to family, friends, fans, colleagues for the messages of support, thoughts and prayers,” he tweeted today, Impossible to tell [you] how much this means.” Meanwhile the team’s official channels have stated that they’re still gathering information about the incident. That puts the Colts franchise in the awkward position of essentially investigation legal allegations against their own owner.
Irsay’s tenure has long been a colorful one in general. The Colts had bottomed out in Indianapolis at the time he inherited the team from his father, resulting in the number one draft pick overall and paving the way for Peyton Manning to become the face of the franchise. The legacies of Irsay and Manning became seemingly inseparable, including a Super Bowl victory, until the latter’s ill timed neck injury ended with his departure in favor of another number one draft pick, Andrew Luck. When controversial talk show host Rush Limbaugh wanted to become part owner of the St. Louis Rams, Irsay was the first to speak out against the idea publicly, citing Limbaugh’s racially tinged remarks toward quarterback Donovan McNabb. Subsequently the NFL denied Limbaugh’s ownership bid.
With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell taking heavy hand toward player discipline of late, particularly regarding those getting arrested, his actions toward Jim Irsay – technically one of his thirty-two bosses – will be heavily scrutinized by the media and by players for signs of whether the same rules will apply to one of the billionaires who collectively owns the NFL as they have to its employees.