Calling reports that his players used a baseball bat and homophobic slurs to threaten Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. prior to Sunday’s game “someone’s attempt at spin control,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera nevertheless ended the team’s use of the prop in their pregame routine on Tuesday.
Rivera denied that any players made the inappropriate remarks. Photos and videos have been on social media this week showing a pregame confrontation between Beckham and Panthers practice squad player Marcus Ball in which Ball is holding a black bat while approaching Beckham during a team stretch. Beckham removed his helmet as the two came close to each other before Giants teammates, including punter Brad Wing, directed Ball away from the team.
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Newsday and others reported on Monday that Beckham felt threatened by the Panther's pregame actions. He later was involved in several skirmishes with cornerback Josh Norman on the field and in the third quarter of the game was flagged for three personal fouls, including one for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman. Beckham was suspended one game by the NFL on Monday, a decision he is appealing.
Rivera said Ball denied using any slurs toward Beckham. He also said he considers homophobic slurs “an important social issue.”
“A lot of it has been assumptions and innuendos,” Rivera said, calling the episode a “soap opera.”
“We have not heard from Odell, he hasn’t released a statement, their organization hasn’t released a statement, but I keep hearing all the things that everybody is saying everyone else is saying,” Rivera continued. “If there is hard evidence, please, present to us so we can act accordingly.”
There is no denying the presence of the bat, which Panthers players have had with them for previous pregame warmups. It represents a tribute to injured defensive back Bene Benwikere.
“The bat is a huge misunderstanding,” Rivera said. “I think a lot more was made out of that then needed to be made.”
Still, he made the decision to ban the bat.
“Because I’ll hear [about] it,” Rivera said when asked why he was taking such action. “It’s the No Fun League for a reason.”