Dec 20, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) gets thrown to ground by Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman (24) during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
The NFL has been the only group that handled the incident totally right. They suspended him and upheld the suspension on appeal.
The Giants seem to have given in to the playoff race. Tom Coughlin said he didn’t know that Beckham had three personal foul penalties. He needed a win and Beckham was his best weapon. Straight-laced disciplinarian Tom Coughlin who used to grind players for stupidity said nothing to his player during the game. Nor did anyone else until a brief word from Eli Manning in the fourth quarter or thereabouts.
Coughlin then continued this line of thinking in press conferences where he insisted on collective guilt in the situation. He stood behind his player, which is fine. He said he did not agree with the act. This is also fine. Where he lost me was his insistence that circumstances FORCED Beckham to act the way he did. It is the old ‘stand your ground’ defense applied to the football field.
The simple explanation is that ‘ends justify the means’ Coughlin wanted to avoid sabotaging the appeal hearing by saying Beckham was somehow wrong and having the appeals board say ‘even your coach thinks you are in the wrong.’ Coughlin wanted Beckham back for the Vikings game and the last ditch effort if he could get him.
This could also be why Beckham’s apology to the fans came out today after the appeal had failed. His apology mentioned nothing about Panthers corner Josh Norman, the person he could have injured. This makes me suspect that Beckham isn’t really sorry. He’s sorry he made the team look bad, but he isn’t sorry for the potential harm he could have caused Norman. A truly contrite Beckham would have to make that admission. Even if he hates every step that Norman takes.
So now the circumstances that forced Beckham’s hand came into play. Those circumstances? In pregame, one of the Panthers threatened him with a bat and others used homophobic slurs toward him.
First, let’s try to logically put the two together. Slurs would make Beckham mad. The bat incident would make Beckham fear for his safety. Therefore he can launch himself as a spear at Norman during a play to save himself. Wait. What?
Was there a bat? Yes. The Panthers carried a bat to represent injured corner Bene Benwikere. Practice squad player Marcus Ball had the bat at the time in question and some sort of conversation which included gesturing with the bat. Coach Rivera has now banned the bat, and the League has also banned similar items from the field too.
Beckham can’t reasonably have expected Ball to turn him into Nancy Kerrigan regardless of what Ball may have said. If Ball joked about it, then that was in bad taste. We are talking about a player who never saw the field during the game.
Homophobic slurs? Harder to say. The Giants have said there were some. The Panthers have denied making any. Witnesses with connections to their respective teams have supported their respective factions. A punter here and a team spokesman there. We do know that the NFL is a coarse place where borderline communication takes place all the time. Just look at the Incognito-Martin incident from a few years ago.
In fact, the Giants could have had a better case if they straight out said that the Panthers had bullied Beckham in some way. Homophobic slurs are something that Beckham has heard before, according to mentor Michael Irvin. This gets back to the coarseness of the league.
A gay player may well have to come out and say that he is offended for that to change. Other than Michael Sam, who is not is the league, I can’t think of another openly gay player in a NFL clubhouse. Statistically they must be there somewhere.
The question is whether Beckham should have felt reasonably threatened. This was the turning point of the Martin case, after all. My guess is that every NBA player guarded by Gary Payton should also have felt reasonably threatened. The NFL either ignored this rather strange appeal to state of mind or felt it was not true.
So the idea that Beckham had to stand his ground really does not seem to be there.
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