by Emily Engle
Late on Sunday, March 16, Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay was arrested in northern Indianapolis on suspicion of intoxicated driving after he consistently drove slowly, stopped in the middle of roads, and failed to signal turns. While pulled over, he failed multiple sobriety tests and his vehicle was discovered to contain multiple prescription drugs when it was searched. Irsay was taken to jail that night, but was released Monday afternoon at 1:30 pm after he posted bond with $22,500 cash. His court appearance is tentatively set for March 26.
Though he was arrested, formal charges have not yet been filed by the Hamilton County prosecutors’ office. If charged, Irsay faces 4 felony counts of possession of a controlled substance and one misdemeanor of driving while intoxicated. The felony charges, if he is convicted, each carry a potential sentence of up to 3 years, though actual jail time for Irsay is unlikely, due to his lack of relevant criminal record and the past typical practice in the county.
Beyond legal repercussions, though, Irsay could face penalty from the NFL. As a team owner, the NFL’s personal conduct policy applies to him as well and he will be “subject to league discipline.” His team, though, released a statement on Monday announcing that they support him, but they refused to say more until more facts are certain. Irsay is the seventh Colts player or official to be arrested since January 2010. In a similar past incident, Detroit Lions’ president Tom Lewand was suspended by the NFL for 30 days, fined, and assigned community service, after he pled guilty to driving while impaired.
Happenings like this are not at all uncommon for Irsay. He has had a “long history of substance abuse” and has publicly spoken about using drugs and alcohol since he was a teenager. His troubles have largely come from a genetic predisposition to substance abuse and an incredible amount of wealth and free time. In 1984, he held an infamous press conference at an airport while obviously drunk as he swore at reporters on live TV. In 2002, he acknowledged a dependency on painkillers after a difficult surgery, but he claimed to have overcome the problem. And just recently, in December 2013, Irsay tweeted that he hadn’t consumed alcohol in 15 years. Sources close to him know this to be untrue. They’ve recognized for years that he is again struggling with drugs and they have been trying to get him into rehab, but Irsay has refused all help. Recently, as well, they’ve said he has had an “increasingly gaunt physical appearance” and significant weight loss. Friends have been quoted that he “desperately needs help” and that they hope this is a “wake-up call” for him.
Irsay was named the Colts’ general manager in 1984. He succeeded his father as the owner in 1997, after his father’s death.