Roger Goodell responded Thursday to criticism levied by NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith that the NFL commissioner abides by a double standard when punishing players and owners. The criticism was related to the league's lack of discipline thus far for Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who was arrested in March for DUI and possession of a controlled substance.
Irsay was found to be operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and had possession of prescription drugs and $29,000 in cash when he was pulled over by police. Goodell and the NFL front office has yet to meter a punishment against the 17-year owner of the Colts, which Smith said indicated a "credibility gap," adding: "What troubles our players is the speed and the deliberateness of the punishment that they have seen in the past when it comes to a player."
Goodell disagreed. He iterated that the NFL will not make a determination on Irsay until it feels it has gathered all of the pertinent facts.
"The personal conduct policy applies to commissioners, owners, players, coaches," Goodell told reporters at the New England Patriots' team facility. "It applies to all of us. We all have a responsibility to do things the right way. There are several players that we haven't taken any action on, either.
"We like to get the facts, we like to be thorough and we like to understand them. Charges were just filed last week. I don't believe there's a credibility gap."
Goodell's response came just one day before Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington reportedly earned a one-year suspension for repeated violations of the NFL substance abuse policy, most recently for testing positive for marijuana. Goodell has absorbed criticism recently for the league's stance on marijuana, which could also force Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon to sit out the 2014 season.
The league has proposed easing its stance on marijuana, though it may be too late for Washington and Gordon. The strict punishment of the two players may, in the meantime, stand out in contrast to the NFL's relative silence on Irsay, who has struggled with drug abuse in the past.
Goodell was in New England to speak at a football safety clinic for mothers, just a little more than one week after retired NFL players filed a lawsuit against the league claiming it illegally gave players painkillers to mask pain and injuries. The former players claimed they were not given prescriptions, nor were they educated on the potential health risks of the drugs.