As NFL commissioner Roger Goodell mulls over disciplinary action for Jim Irsay, he could be taking into consideration more than just the March 16 arrest that landed the Indianapolis Colts owner in jail for impaired driving and possession of controlled substances.
According to a report by the Indianapolis Star, some sports law and ethics experts believe the severity of Irsay's potential punishment could be affected by his long history of drug abuse and questionable personal connections.
The league's Personal Conduct Policy, which Goodell introduced in 2006, grants the commissioner significant freedom in disciplining league employees. "It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime," the policy says. "Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard."
The policy explicitly includes team owners under the umbrella of NFL employees, and given that Goodell will face intense pressure to treat owners with the same hard-nosed approach he has notoriously taken with players, Irsay could receive the full brunt of disciplinary action.
One factor that Goodell will no doubt be looking into is Irsay's connection with an Indianapolis woman who died of a suspected drug overdose two weeks before Irsay's arrest. Kimberly Wundrum, 42, was found dead on March 1 in a $139,000 townhouse given to her by the Colts owner.
Wundrum was arrested on drug charges twice in the two months leading up to her death, and according to her sister -- who once worked as Irsay's private masseuse -- had faced "a long struggle" with addiction. The sister described Irsay and Wundrum as "former friends."
Of particular concern to the league could be the fact that Irsay purchased the townhouse that Wundrum died in through Colts resources, according to the Star. An entity called "2009 Blue Trust," the trustee for which was Colts vice president and general counsel Daniel Emerson, owned three homes that Wundrum listed as her personal address at one time or another.
While Irsay did not break any laws by using Colts money or staff to purchase property for Wundrum, it could very well dictate the court of popular opinion. Central Indiana taxpayers forked up $620 million of the $720 million it took to build Lucas Oil Stadium, and neither they or Goodell will look kindly on Irsay's use of team funds to house a known drug abuser.
Irsay's own drug history doesn't make matters any better. He has openly admitted a long battle with addiction, publicly acknowledging entering rehab in 2002. In a 2010 interview with USA Today, he detailed rampant drug use during his younger days, including cocaine and mushrooms.
"Oh, man. I was so balls-to-the-wall," Irsay told USA Today. "I could somehow hide that aspect a little, like ducks feeding underwater. Truth is, it was just all-out."
Although the owner has claimed he's been sober since 2002, Star columnist Bob Kravitz reported shortly after his arrest that Colts personnel have known he was still struggling with drugs "for years."