You are either running a legitimate enterprise or you’re not and when it comes to professional sports, the stature of any particular player shouldn’t matter when you are weighing discipline that should have been leveled on the playing field in the first place.
The NFL is reportedly considering suspending New York Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for his embarrassing and unprofessional display in what turned out to be a great football game between the New York Giants and the unbeaten Carolina Panthers Sunday.
Beckham, one of the best receivers in football, was taken out of his game early by Carolina’s Josh Norman, perhaps the best cornerback in the game. The ensuing result was three different personal foul penalties on Beckham, and a fourth which was offsetting because Beckham delivered an unprovoked brutal helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman after the whistle, which caused the Panthers’ soon-to-be All-Pro to retaliate.
“You never want to hurt your team like that, and I have learned throughout my life, always, second man gets caught,” Beckham told reporters while trying to spin his misdeeds as the retaliatory ones. “It is just unfortunate.”
What’s unfortunate is a league that pays a lot of lip service to player safety yet referee Terry McAulay and his crew felt it was OK to let Beckham channel his inner Randy Orton in an effort to take Norman’s head off.
By not ejecting Beckham during the game and then furthering that kind of narrative with just a fine, even a substantial one this week, the NFL would undermine any effort it has made to cultivate the ethos of player safety.
Technically the Giants are still alive in the NFC East race and can earn the division crown if they win out over Minnesota and Philadelphia, coupled with an Eagles win over Washington in Week 16. Taking Beckham away from New York would admittedly turn its slim hopes into close to nonexistent, but considering a team’s plight should never enter the mix when doling out player punishment.
Just like the real world, justice is supposed to be blind and you didn’t need 20-20 vision to figure out Beckham was an embarrassment to his organization and the league on Sunday.
And the fact that he helped the Giants rally from 28 points down and nearly upset the unbeaten Panthers even though he shouldn’t have been on the field may have made for good entertainment, but at what cost?
Further damaging the credibility of a league that has little to begin with is not a good look.
“What he did is on display,” Norman said. “You see what kind of player he is and you pull back the layers of skin and you really see what it is. Film don’t lie.”
To those who believe Dean Blandino should have hopped on the Batphone and ordered the on-field officials to eject Beckham, the league clarified its position that only the on-field officials can make that decision.
Passing the buck doesn’t work after the fact, however, and Park Avenue needs to make this right by forcing Beckham to sit next week in Minneapolis even though it’s a nationally televised game.
What Beckham did Sunday was every bit as bad as anything supposed pariahs like Albert Haynesworth or Ndamukong Suh ever did.
“I hope the league office gets a chance to review the film and see what they can do, because players like that don’t deserve to be in the game,” Norman said. “I mean, it’s ridiculous.”
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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