When you think of NFL owners, the first picture that springs to mind is probably Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, or some other older, white gentleman. But as Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay temporarily steps aside to receive treatment for addiction, fans will get a glimpse of a possible future face of NFL ownership: Carlie Irsay-Gordon.
Carlie is Jim’s oldest daughter. According to the Colts’ official website, she’s 33 years old, has three children and received a B.A. in religious studies in 2005 from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. She joined the team as a vice president in 2008. The word is that she’ll be representing the Colts at the upcoming owners’ meeting, but this isn’t particularly unusual; Irsay has been taking his daughters to these meetings for years (the Colts’ official website states that Carlie has been attending since 2004).
There have been other women owners, but not many. Virginia Halas McCaskey (age 90) owns the Chicago Bears and is said to still have final say in major decisions. Georgia Frontiere was the owner of the St. Louis Rams (both in L.A. and St. Louis) and was head of The Greatest Show on Turf. Martha Ford owns the Detroit Lions, though her son is more visible in day-to-day operations. Carol Davis kept a stake in the Oakland Raiders since her husband Al Davis‘ passing.
Historically, women owners have inherited NFL teams from their passing husbands. Now, Carlie Irsay-Gordon is part of a new generation of NFL ownership; she and her two sisters will each inherit one-third of the Colts from their father and continue the family business. The only other owner of similar age to the Irsay sisters would be Jed York of the San Francisco 49ers, who took over operations at age 29 and is currently about 33 years old.
Back in 2008, Jim Irsay did an interview with Indianapolis local news Channel Six, in which he said, “When Peyton retires, then it’s her team.” The “her” he referred to in that instance was actually his daughter Casey, who has since married Indy race car driver A.J. Foyt IV (and they have a son, A.J. Foyt V). Why is Carlie now given the nod instead of Casey? We don’t know, but local Indianapolis media has had nothing negative to say about Carlie. This morning on the Grady and Big Joe 1070 radio show, Indianapolis Star writer Mike Chappell emphasized that Carlie has been very visible in owners’ circles before now, implying the team was in capable hands.
This new development inspires several questions to keep Colts fans occupied through the offseason and beyond. Will Carlie take this opportunity to assert herself, to build a foundation for when the team might be wholly hers? Or will she be more of a figurehead, staying the course until her father is well and able to step back in? Will the Irsay daughters continue a legacy of success or might this turn in to a James Dolan (New York Knicks) or Jim and Jeanie Buss (L.A. Lakers) situation? Could retirement be just what Jim Irsay’s health needs or does he need the busyness and routine of running a team so that idle hands don’t lead him back astray?
One question I’ve seen posted several times is some variation of “Will Carlie take over Jim Irsay’s twitter account?” Well, I did locate a “Carlie Irsay” account on Twitter that has been active since 2010, but it has only recorded nine tweets (one to Jim Irsay). Without the magical blue authentication check mark it’s impossible to know for sure that it’s her, but I think it’s safe to say that while she’s in charge, Twitter service will be a bit different.