Rarely is this ever said about the NFL’s disciplinary decisions, but they actually got something right Monday.
Yes, they suspended a player, and, in a rare occurrence, they even got the length of time of the suspension exactly right (when has that happened in the last ten years?). What they did was suspend star Giants’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. one game for his ridiculousness during the Giants’ 38-35 loss to the still-undefeated Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
This whole story started with the build-up to the much-anticipated matchup between Carolina Panthers’ cornerback Josh Norman and Beckham. It would be a collision of arguably the two best players at their respective positions in the NFL right now, and you could probably gather that there would be some bad blood between the parties. Of course, when there is such a highly-anticipated matchup, there is naturally going to be some ill-will, and indeed there was on Sunday.
It started seemingly from the get-go, and Norman was the one who actually instigated the initial scuffling. His throwdown of the star receiver is what initially garnered the attention of the fans, referees, and even the FOX broadcast. After that, it was only 99.9% Beckham’s fault. You can watch an NFL-made highlight video of the matchup here; embedding the video from YouTube is not allowed by request of the maker of the video (the NFL).
Anyway, Beckham was the guilty party on just about every play. It looked as if he was so rattled by Norman and the Panther defense that he was really more worried about getting his shots in against Norman and others when the play was over than running his route and trying to make a play during game action. But that isn’t even the problem, here, actually, it’s far from it.
OBJ’s actions on the field Sunday weren’t just about a man simply losing his damn mind. They were seriously dangerous, and Norman, Beckham or anyone else playing for either team could have been severely injured as a result of his actions.
You can see if you watch the video that Beckham threw multiple punches on Norman and even, on one play flew in like a missile, led with the crown of his helmet, and kinda sorta tried to decapitate the Panthers’ corner. That play and two others led to 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalties against the Giants, but none of those plays or any of the other reckless and stupid ones led to ejection.
And that is the mistake of the officials working the game. Terry McAulay and his crew missed several surefire penalties over the course of the afternoon, and if they had gotten control of the game and Beckham earlier, most of the shenanigans that occurred between the two probably would not have happened in the first place. Once they did, however, there should have been no other course of action than to eject OBJ. So how did this start, other than with the matchup and the crazy hype?
Supposedly, if you ask the Giants, it started with homophobic slurs directed at the wide receiver. And according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, this isn’t just their best guess; they’re convinced and may even do something about it:
Giants reviewed pregame incidents b/n Panthers players and Beckham. Are convinced he was threatened physically and called homophobic slurs
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 21, 2015
If that is true, that is a truly abhorrent action on the part of the Panther players. If it isn’t, it makes Beckham’s actions that much less understandable, as if they were at all in the first place; as Bob Seger would say, “He (Beckham) had lost all control.”
Another potential provocation for the Giants’ star came in an unexpected form: a baseball bat. In a video posted to Instagram by Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, Josh Norman is seen clearly wielding a black baseball bat. Glazer also describes a threat made by a Panthers practice squad player directly to Beckham:
If those are the real reasons why OBJ completely lost his mind on Sunday, well…. maybe you could justify his anger at the Panther players. If he felt threatened in any way by anyone on the Panthers and felt the need at all times to defend himself, it’s possible to justify his actions. But, according to injured cornerback Bene Benwikere, the team uses a baseball bat before every game as a symbol of home run plays and “laying the wood”, and not as a symbol of mass destruction:
Come on now my boys carry the bat with them as it symbolizes my presence still being with them at the game and the NFL has a problem???
— Bené Benwikere (@BigPlayBene) December 21, 2015
I carried the bat out the tunnel against Atlanta and my teammates held it during warm ups that game to pic.twitter.com/SQTcIy8mrF
— Bené Benwikere (@BigPlayBene) December 21, 2015
Basically, this has gotten to the point of being he said, he said. If Benwikere’s side of the story is true, then Beckham got too caught up in the game, the matchup, or whatever and just lost his damn mind. If the Giants’ side of the story is correct, then there is some justification for what Beckham did, but even then, his actions put people in danger and that is unacceptable no matter what happened before or during the game.
All this being said, the NFL absolutely got it right here; Beckham needed to be suspended, and even though he is a marketable star player in the league’s biggest market, he had to be disciplined for what he did to the entire Panthers team, his own team, and even himself through his stupidity on Sunday. The NFL’s discipline of Beckham in this scenario is absolutely necessary, whether he’s the best receiver in football or the fifth receiver on the league’s worst team.
So, for once, the NFL’s handling of a star player’s transgressions should be applauded.