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Let's be clear, media: Jim Irsay is not Donald Sterling

Jim Irsay's fate needs to be decided by the NFL, not the media
Jim Irsay's fate needs to be decided by the NFL, not the media
Photo by Joey Foley/Getty Images

If it were up to the media, the head of the embattled owner of the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Irsay, would already be on the pike. The decision from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the punishment for Irsay's intoxicated joyride through the streets of Carmel, IN would have been swift, decisive, and heavy.

If it were up to the media, Jim Irsay would be Donald Sterling 2.0.

Thankfully, though, the fate of Irsay isn't in the hands of the media. And it shouldn't be.

The requests for Irsay's demise have poured in from the Boston Globe, the NFLPA media desk, and even USA Today. They want Goodell to make an example of Irsay. They want the punishment to be so severe that no player, owner, or NFL employee will ever think about taking drugs again.

If only it were that easy, and therein lies the problem.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was fortunate, in a sense, in how he was allowed to handle the Donald Sterling situation. Racism is an issue that is almost universally non-tolerated by the public, and even more divisive in a league that is dominated by African-American players.

But being an ignorant bigot is not illegal.

Therefore, Silver was allowed the luxury to operate in confines outside those of the legal system. Due process is not needed in the court of public opinion, and the severe punishment laid down on Sterling from Silver was lauded by all.

In essence, Silver had free reign to lay down whatever punishment he wanted, without worry of any backlash. His only caveat was that he needed to act quickly to avoid the appearance of being soft, as is always the case with mob mentality media, and he did so.

But the situation with Goodell and Irsay is far more complex than that of Silver and Sterling.

For one, there's the legal issue. Irsay was initially charged with four felonies, and could have faced jail time if they stuck. But what someone is initially charged with is often much different when the formal charges are filed. Initial charges are based primarily on probable cause and police reports, while the formal charges are based on what prosecutors believe they can legitimately secure a guilty conviction on.

In the real courts, not that of public opinion, it takes time for the prosecutors to sort through all the statements and evidence and build a concrete story of what they believe actually happened.

And while most of the media believes Irsay's situation is cut-and-dry, after all, he was caught behind the wheel, intoxicated, with a boatload of cash in a trash bag, it would have been unfair for Goodell to punish Irsay over a legal issue before the actual charges were even announced.

In the case of Irsay, he now only faces two misdemeanors. Meaning, a "swift and heavy" decision on Irsay directly after the incident would have, most likely, been far more severe and damning than what it will be now.

I can see the opposition's argument against those last few statements though; that the NFL rulebook clearly states that employees, players, and owners agree that they should be held to a "higher standard" for conduct that operates outside the confines of the court.

I get that.

But the issue here is on punishment, particularly the severity of it. Clearly, Irsay will be punished for his drug use, no one is arguing that point, but it doesn't make sense to act "swiftly" in the case of Irsay. His punishment will be based on the totality of his misdeeds, and his drug use is just a portion of it. The rest of Irsay's mistakes are crimes, which needs time to be sorted out.

And there's another issue at play here, and that is the fact that Irsay is not Sterling on a personal level as well. Sterling's comments reveal a man who thinks less of an entire race of people, while Irsay's actions reveal a man who thinks less of solely himself.

Irsay did commit a crime, but thankfully it was victimless. The only person that truly suffered after that arrest was Irsay; a man who, apparently, had been suffering in his head for a long, long time before he was pulled over that fateful evening.

In the case of Irsay, there's no dogs, no victimized women, and no race of people demanding justice. Just a tired shell of a once strong man that has been punishing himself for years over crimes he committed in his mind.

It is quite evident that Irsay's battle with his demons is going to be a lifelong one, and to punish a man, however deservedly, by taking away the one thing that keeps him holding onto life deserves the time and attention Goodell is taking.

Make no mistake, I agree that Goodell should/ is going to punish Jim Irsay severely, but allow the commissioner the benefit of gathering all the facts. Irsay's case is far more complex than that of Donald Sterling, and more than likely, Irsay's punishment is going to be monumental in its severity.

Such a case deserves the attention to detail.

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