SBJ/March 28-April 3, 2016/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Colts’ Irsay: We want a safe game, but not a pillow fight



Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay spoke for about 20 minutes to SportsBusiness Journal at the NFL owners’ annual meeting about player health and safety issues, and his remarks were strong. His bottom line: Players know there is risk in playing the game, not enough research exists to attack the NFL over brain injuries, and the league is doing everything it can to make the game safer.

Irsay: “The game has always been a risk.”
Photo by: AP IMAGES
Irsay mentioned bobsledding on several occasions as an example of another sport, like football, that involves a degree of danger.

Here are excerpts from the conversation.

“Look at it: When you get into Olympic bobsledding — I could sit down and name a dozen different sports — it has always been a known factor that you know you are going in there and you are taking a risk.”

“Obviously we are not going to go to a situation where we put players in almost balloon-like equipment, where it becomes a pillow fight, so to speak. We are trying to look at everything about the safety of the game without changing the game.”

“I believe this: that the game has always been a risk, you know, and the way certain people are. Look at it. You take an aspirin, I take an aspirin, it might give you extreme side effects of illness and your body … may reject it, where I would be fine. So there is so much we don’t know.”

“It is a tough sport. It is a contact sport. Again, whether it is bobsledding, rugby, what have you now: Any of those sports it takes a commitment [that] ‘I am all in here.’”

“One thing I have always felt strongly about, that [is] to say, ‘Oh, someone knew something and they didn’t tell way back in the ’60s or ’70s,’ that’s just not true. I was there. I know that’s a lie. You know no one knew anything. The only thing we know and always knew is when you strap on that helmet and go out on the field, boy you know you are taking a risk, but the reward is something. It’s worth it.”

“To try to tie football, like I said, to suicides or murders or what have you, I believe that is just so absurd as well and it is harmful to other diseases, harmful to things like … when you get into the use of steroids, when you get into substance abuse, you get into the illness of alcohol and addiction. It’s a shame that gets missed, because there [are] very deadly diseases there, for instance, like alcoholism and addiction. That gets pushed to the side and [a person] says, ‘Oh, no. Football.’ To me, that’s really absurd.”(Note: Irsay has publicly battled painkiller addiction.)

“Football is so popular, people know they can sell their story in a newspaper form or a rating on TV, so they use football because what they are more about is the business of, you know, selling newspapers or seeing commercial time on TV. I see it for what it is, man. I stand there and look at it as a grandfather and someone who has been around for 50 years and sure, part of it is frustrating, but everyone has their own self-motivating motive, and that just happens.”

— Daniel Kaplan

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