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Do the Colts (and the NFL) Have a Double Standard?

Do the Colts have a double standard for releasing LaVon Brazill? Does the NFL have a double standard for delaying in disciplining Jim Irsay? Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson says that the answer to both questions is no.

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Joey Foley

Late Sunday night, March 16, 2014, Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested for driving while intoxicated and possession of a controlled substance.  He underwent treatment and is back running the team now, and he has yet to be disciplined by the NFL.  On July 3, 2014, the news broke that Colts wide receiver LaVon Brazill had been suspended by the league for at least a year for again violating the substance abuse policy.  Just eight days later, on July 11, the Colts waived Brazill, most likely ending his career.

Many people, including myself, took a strong stance in supporting Irsay following his arrest and stating that he needed to get help.  We know of his past struggles with addiction and I wrote how I hoped it was a wake-up call to Irsay.  I didn't deny that discipline should come, but I maintained that he should get help first and foremost.  The NFL Players' Association already wasn't happy with regards to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's supposed delay in disciplining Irsay, and they let it be known.  I addressed the comments of guys like Ryan Clark, Eric Winston, and DeMaurice Smith a few months ago, showing why Goodell's apparent delay in discipline wasn't abnormal.

ESPN's Jeffrey Chadiha wrote that the discipline for Irsay should be draft picks, and while that suggestion is absurd, it does reveal a feeling by many people that Goodell should come down very hard on Irsay, making an example out of the situation.  Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman weighed in on the topic for Sports Illustrated, saying that,

"Everybody else who's had a transgression or run in with the law has been disciplined, for the most part. You try to set an example with certain individuals, and I think you want to keep that going and wouldn't want to change that for any one individual. But, you know..."

Adding to all of this is the report from the Indianapolis Star recently saying that Jim Irsay must testify in a child custody case of a divorced couple.  While it's absolutely crucial to maintain that this is all just speculative, with everything going on surrounding Irsay, this isn't exactly what the league wants out, I'm sure:

In a June 17 letter to the court, Martin stated that his children were in the home of his ex-wife, Jami Martin, on the night of Irsay's arrest. The home, which Irsay bought for $1 million in February, is a few blocks from where he was arrested by Carmel police.

Prosecutors allege he had "oxycodone and/or hydrocodone" in his system and police records said officers "continuously had to support Irsay in order to prevent him from falling over."

"As a father, I do not want my children subjected to this type of behavior and lifestyle," Greg Martin wrote. He added that "money does not buy morals or self-respect."

Most recently, Irsay and the Colts have been accused of having a double standard and being hypocritical.  When Irsay was arrested, he was shown support and sympathy from many, including myself, and was urged to get help.  When LaVon Brazill was suspended, he was met with the reaction of what a stupid decision he made and then the Colts soon after released him.  If the team had maintained such support for Irsay when he needed help, then how could they just cast LaVon Brazill aside?

It's not as simple as that, however.  First of all, Irsay and Brazill were/are struggling with different things per reports, and while both certainly needed/need help, you can't treat both the same.  They are different situations.  Furthermore, it makes perfect sense that the boss would be treated a bit differently than a bubble player.  Irsay has been around the team for most of his life and has been one of the league's most involved owners over the past decade.  He is respected around the league and among the other owners, and the Colts organization has a lot of respect for him as well.  He is very involved with both the NFL and the Colts.  On the other hand, LaVon Brazill was a guy who was a sixth round draft pick in 2012 and, while he had some impressive moments for the Colts over the past two seasons, he was very inconsistent and was a bubble player anyway in regards to actually making the team this year.  There were also the rumors that the Colts were less than thrilled with his work ethic, and the bottom line is that he might have been cut even if he hadn't been suspended.  That's just the nature of the NFL.

So more than anything, this was a business decision for the Colts.  In any form of business, just like in the NFL, if a boss who had been around for a long time and a worker who might have been fired anyway both get into trouble, the latter one will always be shown less leniency than the former.  That's just the way it is.  And in the NFL, it's no different.  Basically, Jim Irsay will continue to help the Colts in a number of areas while LaVon Brazill wasn't helping a whole lot in the past two years and most certainly wouldn't have been with a one year suspension.  So he's gone.  There are very few players in the league who could survive a one year suspension with the same team.  Very few.  Most definitely not LaVon Brazill.  So the Colts cut him.

What this doesn't mean is that the Colts have a double standard or that they don't want Brazill to get help and to get his life on track, just like they did with Irsay.  The Colts can still help Brazill, and most certainly this doesn't change their hope that he will get it.  But to keep him around on the roster made zero business sense.  It's as simple as that.

As for Jim Irsay, however, he needs to be punished.  I still believe that he will be, and I still believe that it will likely be a mix of both a suspension and a fine.  But for those crying about the NFL's supposed double standard over the fact that Irsay has yet to be disciplined, why aren't they also crying out about the fact that Ray Rice and Aldon Smith have both yet to be disciplined as well?  You won't find the NFLPA complaining about the delay in discipline for Rice or Smith, and in fact if they were honest they'd probably say it is good to wait to get all the information.  So why the hurry with Irsay?  Why not be truly fair and apply those same criteria with an owner?  His trial has yet to take place and we still don't know all the details.  I'm not saying that Irsay shouldn't be punished, but it's not just him that is awaiting punishment and there most certainly isn't a double standard.  If the punishment never comes, then there's certainly room for criticism, but the fact that it hasn't come yet isn't a reason to criticize.

In short, neither the Colts with LaVon Brazill nor the NFL with Jim Irsay have a double standard, despite what the appearance may suggest.  Welcome to the world of business - which the NFL most certainly is a part of.