Recently, Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay has become the subject of a DUI and possible drug possession scandal, and has become a target of Roger Goodell. This of course depends on the results of the investigation which is currently ongoing. With that said, there is a lot of information, some of it based in fact, much more in hearsay and rumor, regarding Irsay’s past and present connections which may, in the eyes of some experts, affect Goodell’s treatment of his case.
Among the recent rumors floating around (I call them rumors because I’ve read them in newspapers, magazines and on the internet, so it’s all rumors at this point) is that he has close personal contacts who have recently been arrested for drug crimes and one contact/friend who has recently died of an overdose. Additionally, there are those claiming that he mismanaged the Colts’ funds. Finally, anybody and their neighbor can tell you about how Irsay, supposedly sober since the early 2000’s, has suffered for years with drug issues.
The results of all the investigations will be released when they are ready and some think it could result in disciplinary action carried out by Commissioner Goodell. Here is a list of ten other sports team owners who have been disciplined by the governing body of their sport.
The list is not chronological, but it’s been broken down according to the nastiness of the action(s) which warranted the disciplinary action, from financial mismanagement and discussing free agency before the proper off season period to gambling, fraud, extortion and praising Hitler. If you disagree with the list, you know where to find the comments section.
Donald Sterling gets an honorable mention here because he seems to be able to get away with anything, from multiple discrimination controversies, sexual harassment accusations and lawsuits not to mention of course, his more recent involvement with a prostitute.
10. Ted Turner: Suspended from MLB in 1977
Starting our list of sports owners who have been disciplined is Mr. Ted Turner, who was suspended while he was owner of the Atlanta Braves. In the late 70’s, there were a couple of controversies that involved Turner. First of all, he was owner of the team but briefly tried his hand at managing the club. This attempt was quickly shot down due to an MLB rule which stated that an owner could not manage, coach or play for his team. His suspension occurred when he aggressively pursued Gary Matthews prior to official free agency after the end of the 1976 season. That’s set dates for a reason Ted.
9. Glen Taylor: Suspended from NBA in 2000
Prior to his 1994 purchase of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Glen Taylor was a Minnesota state Senator from 1981 to 1990. In 2000, he came under scrutiny for a violation of the NBA’s salary cap. It was determined that a deal between the team (mainly orchestrated by then executive Kevin McHale) and forward Joe Smith went against salary cap rules. Essentially the contract involved Smith signing multiple one-year deals with the team for less than his value, in exchange for a more lucrative and lengthy contract for the 2001/2002 season. At the end of the 99/00 season, the contract was voided and while little happened to McHale for his part in the agreement, Taylor was suspended for the year and Minnesota lost several draft picks and $3.5 million. While this is the story reported by the news networks at the time, I’m skeptical. I mean, a former politician involved in shady business dealings? There must be some mistake.
8. Horace Fogel: Banned from baseball in 1912
Horace Fogel owned the Philadelphia Phillies from 1909 to 1912 before he was banned from professional baseball. In this era, we are used to seeing managers, coaches and even players howl at refs and umpires no matter what sport. NHL coaches tear refs a new one at will, occasionally getting kicked out for a game or two. Likewise, in Major League Baseball, where managers get ejected from a game for their steamed exchanges with umpires, but it generally ends there. Horace Fogel was a writer, manager and eventual franchise owner/president. Back in 1912, Fogel drunkenly and publicly made the claim that league officials were corrupt and made calls in favor of the New York Giants. He had no way to back up these claims and was subsequently banned from the sport.
7. Frank McCourt: Suspended/Forced out of MLB in 2011
After an unsuccessful bid to purchase the Boston Red Sox in 2004, Frank McCourt was able to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2011, he was relieved of his position as owner by the league after a series of financial blunders that would have bankrupted the team. The largest of these mistakes had to do with the Dodgers’ television contract. He had accepted a contract worth $2.5 billion over 20 years, which caused the league to intervene. After taking control away from McCourt, the new owners, among them Magic Johnson, were able to reach a more lucrative TV contract that would help the team continue to grow. Now, they are so healthy that they have the largest payroll in baseball.
6. William D. Cox: Banned from Baseball in 1943
Yet another Phillies owner on the list. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, Philadelphia’s team was not looking too sharp, having gone above .500 only once since 1918. Cox, at just 33 years old, had purchased the team and was eager to make changes to improve their fortunes. He hired Bucky Harris, who would later come to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. After some initial success, the team was not improving at the rate Cox would have liked and he caused controversy by firing Harris and hiring a nobody to take over the position. The two went back and forth through the media for a while before Harris told reporters that Cox had been betting on Phillies games. Although he claimed his betting was occasional and he didn’t even know it was illegal, ignorance was not a defense in this case and league Commissioner Kenesaw Landis (pictured above) banned him for life.
5. Raj Kundra: Suspended from Cricket in 2013
This scandal came out last year and involves Raj Kundra, a businessman, married to a Bollywood actress and co-owner of the Rajisthan Royals, a cricket team in the Indian Premier League. He was suspended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, for allegedly betting on games. Many others around the league have come under scrutiny for such charges, as there is right now an effort by the BCCI to “clean up” the image of the sport. He was suspended in June of last year and his suspension length depends on how long it takes for the investigation to be completed. Kundra maintains his innocence. At the end of March, the man in charge of the BCCI stepped down, after pressure due to allegations that the investigation of the betting and spot fixing case was determined to be unfair and improperly carried out.
4. John Spano: Incarcerated; Forced to Transfer Ownership in 1997
Say what you will about John Spano’s character, he was good at what he did and essentially defrauded the NHL for three months before too many people caught on. He was briefly thought of by many in the NHL as being the God-send for the Islanders, citing his promise to keep the franchise in New York, renovate the arena and a lot of big talk revolving around free agent acquisition. Unfortunately, shortly after he had “purchased” the team, however, it became clear that he actually had a fraction of the money he had told the league. Commissioner Bettman removed Spano in mid-1997 from control of the Islanders and he was picked up by the authorities in late July, being charged with multiple counts of fraud and forgery. He was in prison until 2004, but upon his release he committed more fraud, being charged and convicted again in 2005. He was released from his second prison term in 2009. Before anyone says he didn’t “own” the team because he never had the money: look at the facts, he was officially the owner and ran the team for a few months. However, brief, he was technically the owner.
3. Eddie DeBartolo: Suspended from NFL in 1999
The former owner of the San Francisco 49ers got into some serious legal trouble back around 1999. What can I say? I’d like a riverboat casino myself. In the late 1990’s, there was a corruption and extortion case involving Edwin Edwards; the Louisiana Governor. DeBartolo was investigated during this case and was determined to have paid the $400,000 for the state’s license for a riverboat casino. The fact that Edwards demanded this sum of money for such a license boiled down to extortion and the fact that DeBartolo had not reported such demands, which were of course, a felony. In return for testimony and a guilty plea, DeBartolo was fined $1 million, and suspended from control over the 49ers for one year.
2. George Steinbrenner: Suspended from MLB in 1974, 1983 and 1990
People loved to speak ill of The Boss even before his death and continue to question his wisdom and methods to this very day. The numbers speak for themselves, however, and Steinbrenner, during his 1973-2010 ownership of the Yankees, micromanaged the organization to seven World Series victories. That’s seven in thirty-seven years, which is just under one fifth of the championships during that period. For all my fellow Leafs fans out there, the word “championship” means when the playoffs are all done and has been determined the best in the league.
Steinbrenner was suspended three times during his years owning the Yankees. He was suspended two years (only served a bit over one however) by commissioner Bowie Kuhn for illegally supporting the Nixon campaign in 1972. It is unclear whether this money was used to rent hotel rooms during the following years. Those who don’t get that joke, brush up on your US politics.
In 1983, he was suspended for a week after publicly criticizing umpires, but stood by his statement and stated that he would never speak an untrue word and stood by all of those on his team who spoke the truth, even if it got them suspended.
Finally, The Boss was banned for life(from managerial/leadership duties, but not ownership) in 1990 for hiring a well-known gambler to tail Dave Winfield and “dig up dirt”. Nothing was found, and he was ultimately reinstated by Bud Selig in 1993. Steinbrenner is only this far down the list as he is a multiple offender.
1. Marge Schott: Suspended from MLB in 1993 and Banned in 1996
I’d normally defend someone of a previous generation who makes an offensive comment that they thought would get laughs. But I don’t think that anything Schott really said while owner of the Cincinnati Reds was meant to be funny. She is reported to have publicly dropped the dreaded n-word more than once regarding a preference against hiring black players and black workers for the club. She had also made comments regarding Jews and questioned why the term “Jap” was offensive. She also made offensive comments about homosexuals and frequently forced her own social views upon those with whom she worked (such as manager Davey Johnson, who was fired over a dispute regarding living with his fiancée while not married to her). Her second suspension which became her banning from any business managerial responsibilities for the Reds occurred in response to favorable statements made about Adolf Hitler and further denigration of Japanese people after meeting the Japanese Prime Minister in 1996. She officially sold the team in 1999.