“OBJ” are the initials that some fans use for New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. There are many things that jump out at many NFL fans when it comes to Odell. You have his play on the field, which has gained him many accolades and arguments as the best WR in the league. His play last season – in his rookie year – landed him on the cover of EA Sports Madden 2016. His hairstyle and looks garnered a lot of attention. But there’s also something else that caught the attention of many fans. OBJ has an affinity for dancing in way that has caused a lot of interesting dialogue on social media sites. All of these things could be getting ready to send us to a place in pro sports that we haven’t been.
Let’s start on the field of play. In 26 career starts Beckham Jr. already has 182 receptions, 2,701 yards, and 25 TDs. The New York Giants still have 2 games left in the 2015 regular season but OBJ will have to sit out the next one. I’ll touch on the reason for the suspension later. In his rookie season, Odell only played in 12 games due to a hamstring injury but he was still able to rack up unworldly numbers in route to winning the 2014 Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year. Along the way Beckham Jr. made some catches that left many of us speechless. There was one thing that stuck out to me during the 2014 season and ironically it finally exploded this time of the year versus the St. Louis Rams. A mini scrum broke out near the Giants sideline after a tough play occurred between Beckham Jr. and a Rams defender. I was a bit surprised that it took that late in the season for it to happen again. Beckham’s fast rise as a rookie wide out along with his tough play and end zone celebrations didn’t sit well with opposing players. The mini scrum was swept under the rug and was basically seen as a non-factor due to OBJ’s youth. But it did plant a seed for opposing players going into the 2015 season.
After the season was over, OBJ’s star grew even more. Shampoo commercials, shoe deals, video game covers and all the attention that comes with it. Odell also became more noticeable after some dance videos were posted on YouTube and other social media sites. The videos caused an immediate storm due to the fact that Beckham Jr. was “dancing” with another male in one of the videos. This of course led to the talk of OBJ being gay and all other kinds of foolishness that I find sad. All of the assumptions being made were based on the dance videos that had been posted. Well not only dance videos because some folks took it upon themselves to create video snippets and memes that caught OBJ in precarious positions. I found it both strange and interesting that supposedly straight men were so intrigued and caught up in trying to “out” Odell. Another interesting factor is that a lot of the things being said for jokes have been laced with homophobia and distasteful language. I’ve seen him (Beckham Jr.) referred to as “her”, “girl”, “Odella”, “faggot” and a bunch of other things that make me wonder, “where we are as a society?”
Now I’m back to what led to Odell Beckham Jr being suspended for one game. It was mainly the fiery attitude that the star receiver plays with that led to the trouble. The Giants took on the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. New York entered the game hoping to end the Panthers’ perfect season and OBJ hoped to have a stellar day against Josh Norman in the process. The game was very exciting and fans were treated to some great action. Unfortunately fans also got to see Odell at his worse. He dropped a surefire TD early in the game after toasting Josh Norman. Norman and Panthers’ defense used that play – and some alleged pregame shenanigans – as a way to get under the WR’s skin and it worked. Beckham would go on to cheap shot Norman and spend a lot of time rattled and not focused on the game. Lucky to still be on the field; OBJ was able to get a bit of revenge in the 4th quarter by catching a TD over Norman to tie the game at 35. It was short-lived as MVP hopeful Cam Newton led the Panthers on a drive to setup a game winning field goal by Graham Gano.
So where does all of this leave us? We won’t be watching Odell Beckham Jr on Sunday in a game with Playoff implications. His Giants teammates will be playing against the Minnesota Vikings and hoping to keep their slim chances of winning the NFC East alive. More importantly I hope Beckham Jr pays attention to the fact that he needs to keep his emotions in check while on the field. Odell is a talented and valuable player but he’s doing himself a disservice if he can’t bottle that emotion properly and use it within the rules of the game. Finally I ask, “are we ready for an openly gay “star” athlete?” We’ve had athletes and a few referees announce that they are gay but none of them fit in the category of a “star” based on the 3 major professional sports (NFL, MLB, NBA) in America. And at the current moment the biggest sports league in America is the NFL. I often see fans ask “why is it important that an athlete announce his/her sexual orientation?” Until the attitudes of fans and players change then it’s easy to see why the decision to announce is important.