SBD/March 18, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Goodell's Credibility Hinges On How He Handles Irsay's Arrest, Punishment

All eyes are going to be on Goodell and how the league handles Irsay's DUI charges
The arrest of Colts Owner Jim Irsay early Monday morning on DUI charges puts NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "in position to reinforce his belief that owners and executives must be held to an even higher standard than players," according to Gary Myers of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Whatever "demons Irsay might be dealing with, Goodell will be there to support and encourage him to get help, but there is no way he's letting Irsay off the hook without major discipline." If he did, he "would lose all credibility with the players" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/18). ESPN.com's Dan Graziano wrote if Goodell "ever wants to be taken seriously on discipline again -- and you can rest fully assured that he does -- he's going to have to find a way to discipline one of his bosses." It is a "bad look for the NFL no matter how you slice it, but if Irsay is guilty, all eyes are going to be on Goodell and the way the league handles the matter." If guilty, Irsay "must absolutely be punished in some significant and public way that makes it clear the league holds its owners to a standard at least as high as that to which it holds its players" (ESPN.com, 3/17). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said Goodell has to "drop the hammer" on Irsay. If Goodell is going to be the "most punitive commissioner in the history of sports when people bother or hurt or stain your image, this guy just did that." Le Batard: "Roger Goodell needs to come down on him pretty hard" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 3/17). CBS' Jim Rome said, “Roger Goodell better send a strong message here. If he is going to drop the hammer on the players, he better drop it on the men who pay them” (“Rome,” CBS Sports Network, 3/17). CBS Sports Network's Tony Luftman: "This is an important moment in NFL history. The commissioner, Roger Goodell, is great at protecting the shield. This is a situation where the shield must be protected" ("Lead Off," CBSSN, 3/17). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio: "Everyone is going to be watching to see what the NFL does” ("PFT,” NBCSN, 3/17).

PLAYERS PAYING CLOSE ATTENTION: The AP's Charles Wilson noted current and former NFLers are "clearly watching the case with interest." Falcons WR Roddy White wrote on his Twitter feed, "I want to see what the NFL does about this Jim Irsay situation if a player loses a game check no matter the amount he should lose a game day. I'm guessing a million dollar fine will come which is nothing to a man that makes billions." White added, "I don't think Irsay is a bad guy I actually like him as an owner but it was a bad mistake" (AP, 3/17). In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote Goodell is "swift when dealing with any legal problems by players, issuing suspensions and fines, and he should be at least that strict with one of the league’s 32 owners." It is "safe to assume White isn’t the only player watching what Goodell does next" (AJC.com, 3/17). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said if Goodell wants to "hit players all the time and you want to show that you are the law-and-order commissioner -- which has been your thing -- then you better hit him and you better hit him hard" ("PTI," ESPN, 3/17). CBSSports.com's Josh Katzowitz: “It is going to be on Roger Goodell to come down with a big penalty, and I think the players expect that, the players want that. If it is a player, all of a sudden there are huge penalties. If Goodell treats Irsay differently, there are going to be some problems” (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 3/17).

TIME TO TAKE A STEP BACK
: In Indianapolis, Stephen Holder notes the possibility that Irsay may be suspended "raises questions about how the franchise would be run in his absence." Irsay has stated in the past that his three daughters "are in line to inherit the team." Each "currently holds the title of vice chair/owner." Beyond them, Colts COO Pete Ward is "intimately involved in all aspects of the club and is one of Irsay's closest advisers." He has been with the team since '82. Actions such as player acquisitions "could be complicated by the absence of the owner, as major moves often require Irsay's approval." The Colts and GM Ryan Grigson would have to "account for that possibility if Irsay was unavailable for any reason" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/18). Also in Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz writes Irsay at this point "needs to temporarily abdicate control of the team" to either Pete Ward, his longtime right-hand man, or one of his daughters. He has got "more important business to take care of than worrying about the team's next free-agent acquisition" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/18).

TREATMENT SHOULD BE MANDATORY: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes Goodell at the minimum needs to make sure going to rehab is an "ironclad condition attached to whatever fine and/or suspension" Irsay is given. Goodell should "act quickly," as the NFL has "taken a hit." Irsay nonetheless should be "held to a higher standard than players, as the league contends is the case when coaches and management figures violate the conduct policy" (USA TODAY, 3/18).
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