Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera says he’s disappointed in the “assumptions and innuendos” alleging his players threatened Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and directed homophobic slurs toward him before last weekend’s game, and will take action if someone presents credible evidence it occurred.
Several media outlets reported Monday that Beckham felt intimidated by the Panthers’ pre-game actions, which included practice squad safety Marcus Ball carrying a bat and getting into a verbal confrontation with Beckham.
Rivera said the bat controversy was overblown – pointing out it was a motivational prop used previously by other teams and players – and added the Panthers take the other allegations seriously and will take appropriate action if needed.
Deion Sanders, the Hall of Fame defensive back who’s now an NFL Network analyst, said on the Rich Eisen Show that Panthers cornerback Josh Norman made sexual slurs toward Beckham and threatened to end his career.
I’m a little disappointed in it to be quite honest because a lot of it has been assumptions and innuendos. We’ve not heard from Odell. He hasn’t released a statement. Their organization hasn’t released a statement. But I keep hearing all these things that everybody else is saying.
Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera
“I’m a little disappointed in it to be quite honest because a lot of it has been assumptions and innuendos. We’ve not heard from Odell. He hasn’t released a statement. Their organization hasn’t released a statement. But I keep hearing all these things that everybody else is saying,” Rivera said Tuesday.
“So that disappoints me because if there’s something out there that’s factual, there’s truth, there’s hard evidence, please present it to us as well so we can react accordingly. We don’t tolerate that here.”
Beckham was suspended one game Monday after picking up three personal fouls during the Panthers’ 38-35 victory, including a late, helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman.
The Panthers counted 12 Beckham-related incidents during the game in which Beckham was the instigator, including 10 involving Norman.
A video taken before the game at MetLife Stadium shows Ball confronting Beckham. But Rivera believes the video clips were benign, and said Ball told him he didn’t threaten Beckham or use anti-gay slurs.
“Marcus has given me no reason not to believe what he told me. I heard nothing. Several of the people around him heard nothing to be construed as something homophobic,” Rivera said. “Having said that, unless there’s an audio or something out there to show me ...
“I’ve seen some of the clips, but honestly they’re benign. They’re going to say some thing or the other.
“People are going to interpret it. But the truth of the matter is, give me some concrete evidence so I can sit down and get this taken care of. If not, let’s move on to the next thing.”
Rivera wondered aloud whether Monday’s reports were somebody’s attempt at “spin control” while Beckham and the Giants waited for the league to announce his suspension.
And while Rivera sees nothing wrong with the secondary’s bat tradition, he plans to end it nevertheless.
“I’m going to end up hearing (about) it. So to avoid the situation and set of circumstances, let’s just eliminate it. That’s what we’re going to do,” Rivera said. “It’s the No Fun League for a reason.”
In the Panthers’ locker room after the game, Norman made a reference to how Beckham wants to “dance and prance around like a ballerina,” while defensive back Cortland Finnegan suggested Beckham might have “female-related” problems. Finnegan said Tuesday he was referring to Beckham possibly having girlfriend-related issues.
Rivera called homophobia a “very important social issue” that shouldn’t be treated as a distraction.
But most of his players were mum Tuesday, with one telling the Observer they were under a gag order on all Beckham-related questions.
Norman, who is expected to be fined for his role in the in-game altercations with Beckham, told reporters he couldn’t say anything. Norman, who was flagged for two personal fouls against the Giants, is expected to meet with the media Wednesday.
Ball, in his first year with Carolina, was among five practice squad players who made the trip to New York as a reward for their work throughout the season. Ball declined comment during a brief appearance in the locker room Tuesday.
Veteran center Ryan Kalil said the 14-0 Panthers, trying to become the third team in NFL history to complete a perfect regular season, can’t get caught up in the drama.
“This is my ninth season and there’s been plenty of that my whole career. That’s just part of the NFL,” Kalil said. “The NFL is kind of like a big soap opera, and I think that’s why people tune in for all that stuff. For us, I think the biggest thing is we just focus on the game. That keeps you plenty occupied throughout the week.”