The NFL has suspended Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for the first six games of the season and fined him $500,000 for violating its personal conduct policy, coming down hard after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from a March traffic stop.
Commissioner Roger Goodell says owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players. The fine levied Tuesday is the maximum allowed under league rules.
Hours earlier, Irsay was in an Indiana courtroom, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated. The 55-year-old Irsay admitted to a judge that he was under the influence of the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone when he was arrested March 16 near his home in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel.
He must submit to drug testing for a year and cannot drink or possess alcohol during that time. His driver’s license also was suspended for one year.
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Irsay issued this statement after his guilty plea:
“I acknowledge the mistake I made last March and stand responsible for the consequences of that mistake, for which I sincerely apologize to our community and to Colts fans everywhere. Even more importantly, though, I am committed to do everything in my power to turn this whole experience into a positive event for myself, my family, and the community. In retrospect, I now know that the incident opened my eyes to issues in my life that needed addressing and helped put me on the path to regain my health. I truly hope and pray that my episode will help in some small measure to diminish the stigma surrounding our country’s terrible and deadly problem of addiction. It is a disease like other progressive, terminal diseases – one that can only be successfully treated by understanding, committed hard work and spiritual growth. I am deeply grateful for the tremendous outpouring of love and support during these past few months from my family, friends, care-givers, and our great community. Please know I am firmly committed to staying on my path to good health and I look forward to a great season.”
Judge J. Richard Campbell asked Irsay about his history of prescription drug troubles.
“Yes, I’ve had it in the past … when I was dealing with the effects after having surgery,” Irsay said in court. He left the courtroom with his attorneys once the hearing ended and didn’t immediately speak with reporters.
Irsay acknowledged in 2002 he had become dependent on painkillers after several years of orthopedic operations. He said then that he had overcome the problem.
Less than 48 hours after his March arrest, the Colts said Irsay had entered a treatment facility. He was back with the Colts management at the NFL draft in early May.
Carmel police said Irsay was arrested after an officer spotted him driving slowly, stopping in the roadway and failing to use a turn signal. Officers said he had trouble reciting the alphabet and failed field sobriety tests. Various prescription drugs were found in his vehicle, along with more than $29,000 in cash.
Irsay told the judge he is still under the care of a doctor and an orthopedic specialist who prescribe medications for him. Under terms of his probation, Irsay must provide officials with all current medication prescriptions.
Andre Miksha, the Hamilton County chief deputy prosecutor, said Irsay’s case wasn’t handled differently than the 1,100 intoxicated driving cases the office handles each year.