Photo courtesy of Getty Images
EZEKIEL Elliott’s six game suspension is bullshit. Let’s get that part out of the way first and foremost. There have been NFL players and coaches (Tom Brady, Bill Belichik) who’ve done worse to the sport itself, and gotten little to no time for their transgressions. There have been players (Greg Hardy) given stiff sentences (10 games), that were reduced to less time (4 games) for admitting far worse than Elliott is accused of. So then, why the stiff sentence for ‘zeke? Why would the NFL want to make an example of Elliott?
The answer dear friends, is marketing. Yes. Marketing.
While advertising is the act of trying to sell a product, marketing is the act of trying to sell an image, or an idea. It’s an attempt to influence, or control thoughts and/or perceptions. Right now the NFL is trying to sell the idea that they are putting their foot down. But to whom is the NFL marketing this idea?
In the last decade, the NFL has made pointed overtures at female customers in the form of products for women, Breast Cancer Awareness, Team Camps for female fans, trying out female referees, and dozens of other small gestures to boot. Given that the U.S. has a larger female population than male, it only makes economic sense to play to the larger crowd.
That said, over the decades the NFL has repeatedly dropped the ball on issues regarding violence against women, and it’s treatment of the perpetrators. Generally those issues were greeted with shrugs from many players, coaches and even owners. Realizing that they’ve been slighting such a large market segment, the NFL is now at least trying to look as if it gives a damn. It is because of that, that Elliott got shutdown for almost half the year.
Despite the Cowboys boast of being “America’s Team” the reality is, there are 31 other fan bases out there, and all of them have female fans. The NFL was willing to piss off female Cowboys fans, in order to score points with female fans of the other 31 teams. Makes perfect mathematical sense.
Also it mattered who the NFL hit with this. Greg Hardy was a mid-level NFL star, already years into his career, who embraced, even cultivated his “bad-boy” image. A suspension to him just added to his “cred”. Elliott however, is a young, top level star. He’s young enough to have this and any other suspension, affect his next contract, and so he’ll have to stay on the straight and narrow. So this suspension now, will in a few years, look like the NFL hit him with some “act right”.
Again, this is marketing the idea to female fans, that the NFL can and now will, force even a star player to behave himself. Due to wanting to not hurt his next deal, Elliott has to walk a careful line, and so is now a built-in success story for Commissioner Roger Goodell’s idea of discipline.
There is a nagging question in the back of my mind however. Would this sentence have been for as many games were it against a non-Cowboys player? Given the Cowboys past (let’s call it) reluctance, to discipline their players, perhaps the NFL was sending the message that if it gets to the Big Desk, it will generate a bigger penalty. This seems like Goodell’s way of telling owner Jerry Jones, to mind his shop better.
How the Cowboys handle the next infraction will determine whether Goodell has made his point to Elliott, the Cowboys, and female fans across the NFL.