Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman and at least one team official reportedly taunted star New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. during pregame warm-ups Sunday by swinging baseball bats and making comments toward him, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com shared a video on Instagram showing Norman wielding one of the bats:
The Giants also posted a video on Instagram revealing a Panthers player holding a bat close to New York's players as they ran onto the field:
Giants Daily shared another clip from before the game in which a practice-squad player went into the Giants' stretching area and had a confrontation with Beckham:
What is a Panthers practice squad player doing going into the Giants team stretching area.. with a baseball bat? pic.twitter.com/4mIQ0jwYRg— Giants Daily (@NYGDaily) December 22, 2015
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported Monday that Marcus Bell, a Carolina practice-squad player, was carrying a bat and that he and Beckham had to be restrained after a confrontation before the game. Per Rapoport, both the Giants and the NFL league office were trying to determine why Norman was carrying around a bat.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported the Giants "are convinced" Beckham was "threatened physically and called homophobic slurs" in incidents before the game with Panthers players. La Canfora added that Carolina officials "deny strongly any threats or slurs were made."
The practice of wielding bats before the game has evidently become a ritual for the Panthers. According to Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, they symbolize the secondary's goal to make home run plays.
Panthers cornerback Bene Benwikere—who brought out a bat when the team played the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14—confirmed the tradition:
Come on now my boys carry the bat with them as it symbolizes my presence still being with them at the game and the NFL has a problem???— Bené Benwikere (@BigPlayBene) December 21, 2015
Coaches and players in every sport use objects as symbols of motivation the bat is a symbol pic.twitter.com/kPGvaHQuHK— Bené Benwikere (@BigPlayBene) December 21, 2015
Tom Pelissero of USA Today reported Tuesday that NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent sent a memo reminding teams "no foreign objects are permitted on [the] field/sideline on game day."
"I'm going to eliminate it," head coach Ron Rivera said on Tuesday about the bat, per Jones. "I want to avoid (the headache). It's the No Fun League for a reason."
A Panthers source told Pro Football Talk on Monday that New York's complaints about the bats could be boiled down to the "Giants trying to distract from [the] Beckham antics."
Dan Graziano of ESPN.com agreed:
Blah Blah. Story is way out of hand. Kid lost his mind, broke the rules, needs to do better, knows it. Full stop. https://t.co/QGSXNGXmGn— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) December 21, 2015
Beckham, however, reportedly was enraged after a Panthers player threatened to "end his day," per Glazer. The Panthers denied any such threat was made.
Norman and Beckham spent much of the game fighting with one another, including a particularly brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from the wideout. NFL Vice President of Football Communications Michael Signora announced Monday afternoon that Beckham has been suspended for one game for his role in Sunday's spectacle.
The Panthers went on to beat the Giants, 38-35, as quarterback Cam Newton led his team to a game-winning field goal as time expired after New York overcame a 35-7 deficit in the second half.