Penance is supposed to be between a person and his deity but Odell Beckham Jr. tried two different mea culpas on Wednesday, only after his one-game suspension was upheld by the NFL and appeals officer James Thrash.
Beckham will not be permitted to practice with the Giants for the remainder of this week or play in Sunday night’s game at Minnesota.
The penalty comes on the heels of Beckham’s often unhinged actions during a 38-35 loss to unbeaten Carolina, where he was flagged three different times for unnecessary roughness while jostling with trash-talking Panthers cornerback Josh Norman.
The most egregious act resulting in the suspension was when the Giants’ star receiver torpedoed himself head first into the earhole of Norman’s helmet, an unforgivable offense in today’s environment which places player safety above all else.
“Acts that jeopardize the safety of players or expose them to unnecessary risk cannot be tolerated,” NFL president of football operations Merton Hanks wrote in his letter explaining the suspension to Beckham on Monday.
From that point the spin started with veiled claims that Beckham was the victim of homophobic slurs and threatened by bat-wielding Panthers practice-squad player Marcus Ball.
Judging by the public reaction, however, the martyr act wasn’t selling for someone who acted so unprofessionally on the field. When all was said and done, the Beckham camp offered no evidence of gay taunting or any meaningful threat when arguing the appeal.
Instead it was a contrite Beckham who appeared in front of Thrash, the ex-Redskins and Eagles receiver, basically begging for mercy.
There really wasn’t any wiggle room for Thrash, however, because giving Beckham the benefit of the doubt would open the Pandora’s Box of precedent, which could open the door for similar instances to occur with the assumption the process would play out in the same way.
And if it didn’t, the league would be exposed to possible legal action and, as evidenced by the NFL’s recent high-profile setbacks in court, federal judges are not all that big on inconsistencies from one case to another.
Thrash issued his ruling, upholding the suspension just before 5:30 p.m. ET, and Beckham immediately took to Twitter to apologize.
A second statement released by the Giants came shortly thereafter.
“I want to apologize to Giants fans. They want to be proud of us, and proud of players like me who represent their team. What happened the other day was embarrassing to them and embarrassing to me,” Beckham said in that apology.
“A lot of kids look up to me as a role model. That is a responsibility I accept and take seriously. Many of the parents of those kids have asked since Sunday what they should say to their children about my conduct. I don’t have the perfect answer, but I think one thing they can say is how I handled myself the other day is an example of how not to conduct yourself. I displayed poor sportsmanship. And those parents can also say that when you act like that, there are consequences. And I hope to be an example of somebody who did something wrong and learned from it.”
Those confessions would have meant more if either came before the appeal hearing instead of after. In fact, the timing may have actually helped Beckham with his contrition-based defense in front of Trash.
By waiting for the ultimate result, however, the Beckham-camp looks like a calculated political campaign. First, they leaked a few potential defense scenarios and gauged the reaction before deciding to move forward with the one that polled best.
And you would get good odds that two different sets of statements were drafted in advance of Thrash’s decision.
Beckham was calculated on Wednesday, not contrite, and that’s not even necessarily even a bad thing because football is not exactly grounded in morality. That said, though, Beckham must now take that calculation on the field and not let every trash talker get under his skin.
— 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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