SBD/March 21, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Colts Sponsors Throw Support Behind Organization Following Irsay's DUI Arrest

Colts sponsors "appear to be rallying behind, not abandoning," the team following Owner Jim Irsay's arrest Sunday for DUI, according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Colts execs have been "busy contacting sponsors since Monday ... to explain to them the situation." Colts COO Pete Ward said that most of the response "has been supportive." Lucas Oil CEO Forrest Lucas, whose company owns the naming rights to the Colts' stadium, said, "I didn't hesitate to put my support behind Jim. I'm not for drunk driving or drug abuse, but I think he's addressing those issues. None of that erases all the good this man has done for the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana." Indianapolis-based MainGate Inc. CEO Dave Moroknek, whose company handles the team's merchandise sales, said, "The support level for the organization is at its highest point ever." He added, "That man has done an unbelievable amount for this city. He's done a ton of charitable work and a lot of things people don't know about and will never know about because he hasn't sought to publicize them. People feel it's time to support Jim and his family since he's supported this community and the fans here" (IBJ.com, 3/20).

WHAT ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN? Thursday's edition of ESPN's "Outside The Lines" examined what kind of action NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should take against Irsay. ESPN's Bill Polian, who served as Colts GM from '97-'11, said Goodell will "weigh all of the issues -- pros and cons -- and he'll take a look at past practice." Polian noted that has been "some of that recently" with Lions President Tom Lewand and two Broncos execs, Dir of Player Personnel Matt Russell and Dir of Pro Personnel Tom Heckert, all having been arrested in recent years for DUI. Polian said Goodell gave those three execs fines and suspensions, but he "may take a different tack with Jim, particularly now that he's entered rehab." Also, the fact Irsay is an owner plays into the decision process, with Polian saying, "I don’t know suspension necessarily plays as big a role for an owner as it might for a person that worked in the day-to-day operations of a club." ESPN's Andrew Brandt calls it a "very tough situation" for Goodell. Brandt: "What do you do to an owner? The ironic part of it is the owner is an employer of the commissioner, who's the employee who will be disciplining that owner." Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz said Goodell should force Irsay to be subject "to random drug testing" as a prerequisite for him "owning the team, or at least running the team." However, Kravitz acknowledged he was unaware whether Goodell has that jurisdiction ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 3/20).
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