Let’s get right to the point: maybe Odell Beckham Jr. is gay, maybe he isn’t. His lifestyle is his right, his openness is his choice. But just because someone calls you a name, that doesn’t give you the right to repeatedly launch at him in the middle of a football game.
Life isn’t fair.
And we know the NFL isn’t fair.
Now, whether Odell Beckham deserves to be suspended is another matter entirely, particularly because lots of players have done downright stupid things on the field and been merely ejected. Beckham remained on the field for the New York Giants’ loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, which isn’t his fault. Almost certainly, Beckham remaining in the game was the fault of officials who clearly lost control of a matchup that became a downright blood feud.
Now here’s another question: that rule the NFL implemented a couple of years ago — the one that prohibits racial slurs on the field — does it include gay slurs? And if it doesn’t, the NFL certainly needs to make an adjustment, particularly following the highly publicized case of Michael Sam and, now, Beckham.
I mean, discrimination is discrimination, right?
Look, trash-talking has been a part of sports forever. Beckham isn’t the first player, in any sport, to be called a gay slur. And he won’t be the last. A few years back, NBA star Kevin Garnett sent Carmelo Anthony into orbit during a game between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks for allegedly making graphic comments about Anthony’s wife. This all raises the question of when trash-talking goes too far, and whether the offended part has a right to hit back.
In the case of Beckham, he took justice upon himself, at least once blindsiding Josh Norman with a shot to the side of the head — helmet to helmet — that was downright vicious. Did Beckham lose control? Yes. Should he have been thrown from the game? Absolutely. But whether Beckham should be suspended is entirely open to debate, not because of what Norman called him, but because of NFL precedent.
Me? I say no. Beckham should be fined. But he should also play this week against Minnesota.
Before we get too far off track, let’s understand that Beckham, the Giants and their allies in the New York media are being manipulated. The Giants are fighting for their postseason lives — however slim their playoff chances — and New York needs him on the field on Sunday.
The earliest stories yesterday concerned the Panthers’ attempt to intimidate Beckham with a baseball bat. That idea is downright laughable. I mean, the Panthers weren’t going to bring the bat on the field with them, were they? So they brought a bat. So they told Beckham he was in for a long day, metaphorically or otherwise. Football is a game, in many ways, about kicking ass, so we can’t make it illegal for one player to threaten another on the field.
The slurs? Lame. Childish. Pathetic. But Beckham still could have handled them better.
In the interim, the NFL now must determine whether to eliminate gay slurs from the field of play, and their actions to date suggest they ultimately will.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.