Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to operating a vehicle while intoxicated — a misdemeanor charge — in a case related to his March 16 arrest. Irsay will be fined $500,000 and suspended six games by the NFL, receive one year’s probation, and will not be able to engage in social media regarding team or league matters.
According to an NFL press release, Irsay’s suspension begins at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and will end following the Oct. 9 Colts’ contest against the Houston Texans. In addition, Irsay will not be allowed to visit the team facilities, attend practices or games, or represent the team.
During a change of plea hearing Tuesday morning at the Hamilton County courthouse, Irsay — a recovering alcoholic — entered a guilty plea for one misdemeanor charge of impared driving.
“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,’’ Irsay said in a statement released Tuesday by the Colts. “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.’’
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell imposed the maximum fine allowed under league rules, but he did not dish out further punishment to the Colts owner because Irsay’s actions did not have a “competitive consequence,’’ according to the statement released by the NFL.
“I have stated on numerous occasions that owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players,’’ Goodell wrote in a letter to Irsay. “We discussed this during our meeting and you expressed your support for that view, volunteering that owners should be held to the highest standard.’’
The 55-year-old Irsay was arrested by Carmel, Ind. police on March 16 and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and four counts of possession of a controlled substance. The Indianapolis Star reported that Carmel police found several pill bottles with prescription drugs in Irsay’s car after the Colts’ owner was pulled over after driving at a slow rate of speed, stopping in the middle of the road, and failing to signal a turn.
According to a toxicology report in court, Irsay had oxycodone and hydrocodone in his system at the time of his arrest.
“The agreement’s terms are typical for first-time OVWI defendants in Hamilton County,’’ the prosecutor’s release states according to IndyStar.com. “Sixty days in the local jail is the maximum penalty available under Indiana law for a Class C misdemeanor. Count 2 was dismissed pursuant to the agreement.’’
Goodell has not been as lenient with players who have been battling similar substance abuse issues. Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon — who has a lengthy history of drug related issues — received a one-year suspension by the NFL after his arrest in North Carolina for driving while intoxicated. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith will miss nine games for violations of the NFL’s drug and personal conduct policies.
Goodell, who was widely criticized for giving Ray Rice a two-game suspension for dragging his fiancee –now wife — Janay Palmer unconscious out of an elevator, recently laid out tougher penalties in response to acts of domestic violence.