It is still unclear whether any Carolina Panthers players used gay slurs in provoking New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham on Sunday, but there is no doubt they questioned his masculinity.
Beckham was suspended for a game by the NFL on Monday after he committed three personal fouls and hit Panthers corrnerback Josh Norman with a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit. The bad blood boiled over after the game, with Norman going off:
"Fuck him. He's a bitch. Screw him and this whole setup," Norman said. "I hope the (NFL) takes a better look at it and see what they can do 'cause players like don't need to be in the game. ... It shows what kind of person he is."
Norman's teammate Cortland Finnegan, who also had an altercation with Beckham, added to this, saying, "He may have something in his blood. Maybe it's female-related."
To continue the theme that Beckham is less than a "real man," Norman talked about the receiver's playing style. "You going to get out here, and you're going to dance around and prance around like you're a ballerina, that goes to show you," Norman said. "When you cut back layers, you see. Everybody saw that live on national TV. There's nothing that I can show that he hasn't already been exposed.
"The maturity level on him is just as a little kid. I think he needs to grow. I tried to do my best to respect people."
Adding to this, several writers have cited sources saying gay slurs were used against Beckham. "Giants players on the field heard Panthers defensive players direct anti-gay slurs and expletives at Beckham before the game, and the source believes that also helped set the confrontational tone for the game," ESPN's Ian O'Connor reported.
While no one has produce audio of any gay slurs being uttered, Hall of Famer Deion Sanders said Beckham definitely was taunted. "Then you start talking about his hairstyle," Sanders said. "Then you start talking about his sexuality. So now when you're talking about things like that of that nature, it goes way off the field into something because now this is personal."
It seems very likely that f-bombs of the gay nature were used. If Panthers players publicly and without hesitation use misogynistic terms to discuss Beckham, the idea that some of them didn't use gay epithets is hard to believe. Calling a player's "manhood" into existence has long been considered the ultimate football insult, and terms like "bitch" and "ballerina" imply someone who is not man enough to play football. People who use such language often equate being gay with being feminine, non-masculine and soft, so misogyny and homophobia are on the same continuum.
The irony for someone like Norman is that a world class ballerina would school him in a test of agility. Players in the past, including Hall of Fame receiver Lynn Swann, have taken ballet to improve their athletic skills.
None of this excuses what Beckham did during the game and his suspension is justified. However, if the NFL finds any hard evidence of a specific Panthers player using a gay slur, they need to send a message of zero tolerance by identifying the player and hitting him with a fine and a suspension.