Remember New Coke?
In one of the most bizarre marketing decisions in American history, Coca-Cola changed its century-old formula in 1985 to a more sugary taste, only to face a deluge of complaints from outraged customers.
Just 79 days later, the company brought back old Coke as Coke Classic.
All you could think of at the time was, what were they thinking?
Their explanation is that they were worried about losing market share to Pepsi. But nobody in the boardroom raised a red flag that changing the formula wasn’t the answer.
I’ve been thinking about the New Coke fiasco while observing Roger Goodell play the Javert role as he obsesses with bringing down Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is the Jean Valjean in this scenario.
What exactly is Goodell thinking? And can nobody in the NFL convince him that his pursuit of Elliott is bad for the league’s image?
Didn’t the league learn anything from the pursuit of Tom Brady? Why does Goodell keep giving the NFL self-inflicted wounds? Does he crave being the NFL’s Judge Roy Bean?
Goodell is a perfect example of the Peter Principle and either doesn’t have any advisers with common sense or doesn’t listen to them.
Instead of the league celebrating the start of the season, one of the major storylines is its pursuit of Elliott, which has now become – as expected – a court fight that could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As it stands now, Elliott will play in the opener against the New York Giants while a Texas judge decides Friday whether to issue a temporary restraining order.
The league, meanwhile, has gone to court in New York, where it won the Brady case.
The court fight is just beginning.
Brady declined to go to the U.S. Supreme Court. With Jeff Kessler on the case, Elliott probably will take it all the way.
Goodell finally nailed Brady in Deflategate and suspended him the first four games last year, even though they had virtually no evidence he was involved in deflating footballs. And the league had never tested balls at halftime of a cold-weather game, so it had no idea if it was normal for the balls to lose pressure in those circumstances.
But the price was more than a year of bad publicity for the league, tarnishing its biggest star. And in the end, there was no punishment for Brady. Missing the first four games was probably a plus for the then-39-year-old player, who only had to play 12 regular-season games and won the Super Bowl. The shorter season may have helped him.
The Elliott case is a different one involving allegations of domestic abuse, but again, the league doesn’t have enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds of the back and forth, because this is a classic “he said, she said” case. Only Elliott and Thompson know what happened. Maybe he’s guilty. Maybe he’s not. The only thing we can say for sure is that they appeared to have a dysfunctional relationship.
The prosecutors looked at the evidence and declined to take action. The league’s leading investigator, Kia Roberts, was the only one to interview all 26 victims, including the alleged victim, Tiffany Thompson, six times. She decided Thompson wasn’t credible and recommended Elliott not be disciplined.
Thompson did have pictures of bruises on her body, but one doctor said it is difficult to determine by pictures when the bruises took place.
Still, Roberts’ report was disregarded by Goodell and his four-person panel. Roberts didn’t seem to understand the league wants an investigator like Ted Wells, who conducted the investigation in the Miami Dolphins bullying case and the Deflategate debacle.
The NFL has an “Alice In Wonderland” justice system. First, it declares guilt, then it tries to build a case, And since Goodell has the power to discipline in the CBA, the courts tend to uphold it. And not surprisingly, former NFL executive Harold Henderson upheld it.
It doesn’t help that Goodell hired former Clinton aide Joe Lockhart as his PR chief. Lockhart likes to pour oil on the fire. He issued a statement accusing the NFLPA of leaking negative information about Thompson. Again, without any evidence. This only helped poison the well in the relationship between the NFL and the union.
Another factor is how Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reacts if the league wins and Elliott is suspended. New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft is a more get-along type of owner who doesn’t like to rock the boat and didn’t even appeal the league’s action against the Patriots in Deflategate.
That is not Jones’ style. He has said he will have things to say at some point. They aren’t likely to be supportive of Goodell. Although a committee of six owners has reportedly agreed to extend his contract, Jones has gotten involved even though he is not on the committee. Jones is always involved in league matters, especially ones that affect his team.
If the Cowboys lose, this case will not be over even when it seems to be over.
Meanwhile, the oddsmakers don’t think it is a big deal whether or not Elliott plays the opener.
They had the Cowboys a 3.5-point favorite over the Giants before he was cleared to play the opener. His presence moved the line only half a point to four points.
The only thing we know for sure is that NFL’s Javert will continue to pursue Jean Valjean.
And if it goes all the way to the Supreme Court, will Cowboy fan Clarence Thomas recuse himself?