Here’s the deal: anyone carrying around a baseball bat who isn’t either in the batter’s box or the on-deck circle should be cause for concern. Not because baseball bats can’t have peaceful uses outside of hitting baseballs — they make excellent paper weights, kitschy Americana decor and air guitars — it’s just that baseball bats have a long history of being used as weapons. In fact, outside of a gun or a knife, a baseball bat is THE weapon. Movies, video games, real-life — we all know what it means when someone who isn’t playing baseball walks around with a club.
According to Carolina Panthers cornerback Bené Benwikere, his team brandishes one merely as “a symbol of motivation.” Hmmm, really?
You know what else is a symbol of motivation? Focusing on the game and not symbolism.
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
Please. The league’s best defense walks around a football field prior to kickoff with a metal baseball bat because it’s intimidating. Let’s not kid ourselves.
Does this excuse Odell Beckham Jr.’s helmet-to-helmet hit across the face of Panthers’ CB Josh Norman? Of course not. But it’s at least easier to understand why he would act out given how menacing the Panthers pre-game mind games were — tactics that reportedly included homophobic slurs and threats of “ending” Beckham’s career.
We all accept that on the field there is a clear line you do not cross: hitting someone to injure them. Without question, OBJ deserves his one-game suspension for what he did to Josh Norman. But don’t pretend that the NFL’s blindspot when it comes to policing pre-game behavior didn’t play a role in Sunday’s Giants-Panthers game spiraling out of control. There’s a line off the field that you do not cross, as well. It’s called “literally and/or implicitly threatening violence.”
The league’s got to do a better job keeping the peace before the actual game starts. Just imagine if Utah Jazz power forward Trevor Booker brought a bat to the Staples Center and stared down Roy Hibbert before tipoff. How would that look? Would it be ok if the Panthers carries around a wooden kendo stick? Nunchucks? Boxing gloves? Bottom-line: some symbols represent multiple things.
— No more bats.
Rivera on the bat: "I'm going to eliminate it. I want to avoid (the headache). It's the No Fun League for a reason."
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) December 22, 2015
— Footage of Josh Norman walking around with a bat pre-game puts Beckham’s particularly feisty on-field actions into a slightly different perspective. Via Jay Glazer’s Instagram…
— Beckham suspended one game, expected to appeal.
Odell Beckham Jr. has been suspended for one game.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 21, 2015
— Not surprisingly, Grandpa Coughlin wasn’t thrilled with OBJ’s antics.
Tom Coughlin on OBJ: “I will not defend his actions yesterday because they were wrong and this particular franchise does not tolerate that.”
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) December 21, 2015
— Deion Sanders thickens the plot with this little tidbit, saying Norman threatened to end Beckham’s career prior to kickoff — a claim which is at least partially substantiated by footage of a Norman-OBJ pre-game confrontation.
Deion Sanders says that Norman called Odell a "fa**ot", carried around a baseball bat pregame and told him he was "gonna end his career".
— astromarko (@astromarko) December 21, 2015
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