As Jim Irsay struggles to get clean and awaits word on his future from a judge and the NFL, a more nuanced portrait is emerging about the billionaire sports celebrity with a big heart.
It’s of a man not only struggling with his own drug demons, but befriending a woman who was worse off than himself and refusing to abandon her, even when he couldn’t help her anymore.
When Irsay walked out of the Hamilton County jail on Saint Patrick’s Day, it was with the realization that his arrest the night before for driving under the influence could have been much worse and that a friend of his, whom he tried to save, wasn’t so lucky.
Sources and family members tell FOX59 that Kim Wundrum was a modest woman from Brownsburg who spent years trying to break her addiction to drugs . . .
A family member told FOX59 she didn’t know Kim was in that much trouble and a friend said that he talked to her on March 1 and he knew she was in bad shape.
At this point it’s unclear if Irsay has been aware of his friend’s condition.
On March 2, in the townhome paid for and deeded over to her by the Colts Blue Trust, Wundrum was found dead.
On the police report for her death, under the heading ‘evidence,’ police described finding an orange plate with white powder, a straw and a razor estimated at a $100 value.
Wundrum’s family says Irsay had tried and failed to help her clean up, ever mindful of his own admitted history of painkiller addiction.
In the end, while he wasn’t necessarily close to her anymore, Irsay, known for his charity and commitment to friends didn’t totally abandon her either. He made sure she at least had a place to live while she sorted out her demons in a battle she eventually lost.
Just two weeks before Irsay’s own journey to sobriety took a detour on a Carmel Street . . .Right after Wundrum's death in early March Irsay was busy tweeting about an upcoming audition for Colts cheerleaders, Colts roster changes, a shout out to Star sports reporter Bob Kravitz and a remembrance of former Detroit Lions' owner William Clay Ford, Sr. There wasn't a single mention of Wundrum's passing. What do you want to bet that Irsay and Wundrum relied on the same person(s) to feed their drug addictions?
I don't know about you, but I've had my fill of hearing what a generous man Jim Irsay is. What about the taxpayers who've subsidized his family business well north of a billion dollars? Don't we count for anything?
UPDATE: Former Star reporter Gerry Lanosga has some spot-on observations about the way community leaders have dealt with Irsay's drug addiction problems:
. . . Over perhaps two decades of substance abuse, Irsay has had plenty of support and only the best of treatment for his addiction. When he came under the microscope of Indianapolis police in 1995, investigators encouraged him to seek help rather than arrest him.
When a family friend raised concerns about his problems to the Colts organization a year later, team officials talked to him but took no further action. When his continuing addiction first became public in 2002 (disclosure: I was one of the reporters who broke the story), the league did nothing. “I’m not going to get into that,” said then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue (even as his organization went after drugged-up athletes with a vengeance).
The city didn’t want to get into it, either, and a few years later Irsay was given a massive deal for a new taxpayer-subsidized stadium.
In effect, Irsay’s behavior has been enabled for years in the interests of discretion and sensitivity – and football. To continue that is a disservice to him and the community, as well as an affront to those his actions have damaged (because addiction is never victimless) and to people of lesser means who fight their addictions with little support from anyone.
Irsay is, by his own aspiration, a very public figure in this city. He holds the keys not just to a private team, but to a valuable public asset. Yes, he needs help. But having sympathy for his struggles doesn’t mean we have to continue to ignore the public policy issues raised by his situation.