The notion that Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who went after Panthers cornerback Josh Norman repeatedly on Sunday, was provoked by the presence of a baseball bat on the field before the game is laughable. Another potential explanation that emerged on Monday is far more serious.
Ian O’Connor of ESPN.com reported on Monday that Giants players “heard Panthers defensive players direct anti-gay slurs and expletives at Beckham before the game,” which is believed to have set the confrontational tone of the game.
In an appearance with Stephen A. Smith of SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio, Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders corroborated the notion that Panthers players hurled personal insults at Beckham.
“Then you start talking about his hairstyle,” Sanders said. “Then you start talking about his sexuality. So now when you’re talking about things like that of that nature, it goes way off the field into something because now this is personal.”
Flashes of homophobia emerged after the game. Said Panthers cornerback Cortland Finnegan, via Black & Blue Review: “Maybe it’s in his blood. Maybe it’s female-related.” Likewise, Norman called Beckham a “bitch” and a “ballerina.”
“You’re going to be Michael Jackson and go around and dancing and playing and a lot of other stuff and not be a football player and not train the way you’re supposed to train,” Norman said. “It goes to show. I hope I pulled that mask off. I pulled back the face of what that dude really is.”
If guys like Finnegan and Norman are willing to offer up such thinly-veiled assessments of femininity and sexuality when talking publicly about Beckham, would it be a shock to learn they used anti-gay slurs toward Beckham when they thought their words weren’t being recorded?
Given the number of cameras and microphones present on and around a football field before, during, and after a game, the NFL should fully investigate whether and to what extent slurs were directed to Beckham. While it doesn’t begin to excuse Beckham’s behavior, the NFL should want to know if things like this are happening — and the NFL should be taking meaningful steps to eradicate it from the game.