Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts NFL team, wants to return a Killer Whale in Florida to its pod in the Pacific Ocean—and he is willing to pay for it.
- Lolita, also known as Tokitae, is a 53-year-old performing Orca living at Miami’s Seaquarium.
- The aging whale retired in March as she is developing health problems and losing strength.
- In an effort to reunite the whale with her family, Irsay has agreed to finance her return home.
- The four-ton whale must be flown 2,700 miles in a cargo plane from Miami to Seattle.
- “She’s healthy, I’ve got the money, let’s move her,” he said, appearing on The Pat McAfee Show.
Why It’s Important
The mission to transport Lolita across the country to spend the remainder of her life close to the wild appears to be going smoothly and is great news for the whale. The hope is that she will reunite with her mother and pod in a netted-off area on the coast of the San Juan Islands and spend her remaining days happy.
However, the news of Irsay’s philanthropic effort to “save the whales” was met with some derision by sports fans. The decision to pay millions of dollars to transport an orca by cargo plane comes amid a trading scandal for star running back Jonathan Taylor regarding limitations to his salary cap.
ProFootballNetwork declared the effort a “Free Willy Expense,” while one fan asked, “How Much Does the Orca Count Towards the Salary Cap?”
“It’s not that Jim Irsay is saying he doesn’t have the funds to pay him. Unlike baseball, where owners can essentially just buy their way into a great baseball team, the NFL has a strict salary cap. I would like to believe that if the salary cap weren’t in place, Jim Irsay would happily meet Jonathan Taylor’s demands. It would at least be a different conversation. But he has to think about how he’s going to best divide up $224.8 million USD amongst a roster’s worth of players in a way that’s going to help best his beloved Colts make it to the second round of the playoffs at best,” writes Barstool Sports’ Jim Rich.