Last month, Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated along with four counts of possession of a controlled substance. He promptly checked himself into a treatment facility, and when he emerges, he'll face more tough questions from the NFL about his behavior.
According to the Indianapolis Star, two weeks before Irsay's arrest, a woman named Kimberly Wundrum died of a suspected drug overdose at a townhouse given to her by Irsay last August.
The league's personal conduct policy not only includes players but owners as well, and it states that those owners should be held to a "higher standard" than criminal conviction. That policy, a sports law and ethics expert told the Star, could lead NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to ask Irsay about his relationships and associations outside the Colts.
"The NFL is often criticized for protecting the 'shield,' and it does," said Mike Gilleran, executive director of the Santa Clara University Institute of Sports Law and Ethics. "How does the league look if it ignores that? It can't, in my view."
The Star adds: "The source familiar with NFL operations told the Starthe league likely would want to look at anything that could shed further light on Irsay's drug use and associations: How long has he been abusing prescription drugs? Is he using other illegal drugs? Who was he getting the drugs from? Who was he using them with?"
During the annual owners meeting late last month, Goodell said Irsay is "subject to discipline" but didn't offer details.
"I'm not going to play the hypothetical game on that," the commissioner said. "If policies, laws were violated, we have a personal conduct policy and that's important to us and it applies to everyone in the league including ownership."
Irsay has a history of substance abuse. In 2002, he admitted to abusing prescription painkillers.
“After several years of orthopedic operations and procedures, accompanied by long bouts of chronic pain, I became dependent on prescription pain medications,” he said at the time. “I have successfully dealt with my dependence and my chronic pain issues. This has been a personal journey, and I ask that my privacy, as well as that of my family, be respected on this health issue.”
Meanwhile, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, writing for TheMMQB.com last week, contrasted the differences between Irsay, a white owner, and former Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, a black player accused of gang ties.
"Commit certain crimes in this league and be a certain color, and you get help, not scorn," Sherman wrote. "Nobody suggested the Colts owner had 'ties' to drug trafficking, even though he was caught driving with controlled substances … and $29,000 in cash to do who-knows-what with."
And now, in light of Wundrum's death, Irsay faces more scrutiny.