Last Sunday, the Giants lost a heartbreaker to the undefeated Carolina Panthers (this was their fifth or sixth such heartbreaker of the season) on the final drive of the game. Although losing at the last second has become par for the course with the Giants, the surprising thing was watching Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. meltdown in real time in a fierce matchup with Josh Norman, the best corner in the game this season.
Beckham received three personal fouls and was given a one game suspension, with just about everyone agreeing he should have been ejected from the game long before he head-butted Norman in one particularly nasty late-game play. Since then, there has been a lot of talk about Panthers players (including Norman) menacing Beckham with bats before the game and taunting him with gay slurs, which puts his on-field meltdown into a slightly different light.
What is a Panthers practice squad player doing going into the Giants team stretching area.. with a baseball bat? pic.twitter.com/4mIQ0jwYRg
— Giants Daily (@NYGDaily) December 22, 2015
Deion Sanders says that Norman called Odell a "fa**ot", carried around a baseball bat pregame and told him he was "gonna end his career".
— astromarko (@astromarko) December 21, 2015
A Giants source told ESPN, "that Giants players on the field heard Panthers defensive players direct anti-gay slurs and expletives at Beckham before the game." Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond denied that any member of the team used the bat to threaten Beckham, adding that the bats are a tradition and meant to "symbolize home-run plays and 'bringing the wood.'"
Panthers coach Ron Rivera also denied any bat intimidation and said there was no evidence of any gay slurs being tossed around: “We don’t condone that. Until we hear something concrete, we are not going to react to it,” he said. Nevertheless, Rivera was heard apologizing to Giants coach Tom Coughlin at the end of Sunday's game: "I’m sorry about my guys’ behavior, coach,” Rivera said. “You did a great job." Norman also has been fined by the league for his role in the fracas.
In a conversation with Hall Of Fame NFL star Michael Irvin, Beckham said that he has been taunted all season long by opposing players.
"He deals with it a lot," Irvin told the Daily News. "For some reason, everybody goes after him with gay slurs. He’s a different kind of dude. He has the hairdo out, he’s not the big muscular kind of dude. The ladies all love him. He’s a star. I wonder why people are going in that direction. It blows my mind. I told him he can’t let stuff that people say get to you."
"I don’t think I’ve ever really seen the animosity towards a receiver ever in the league right now what’s going towards this young kid,” Irvin added. "I would like to think I could handle it correctly. But I can’t promise you that. Really, nobody can. That is why they give you leniency for crimes of passion."