Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday that the team will no longer be using baseball bats as motivational symbols. The decision was made following a controversial pregame incident between New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Panthers practice squad player Marcus Ball. During warmups, Ball was carrying a baseball bat, which the Giants claim triggered several altercations in the game, including a hit that got Beckham suspended for one game.
The Panthers have said that the bat is purely motivational, symbolizing "bringing the wood" and "hitting a home run." Rivera said the team will retire the use of a baseball bat as a motivational tool beginning with this week's road game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Rivera mentioned that several other teams have used the bat symbolism to motivate players, and he doesn't see the use of a baseball bat to motivate his team as a problem, calling it a misunderstanding. Rivera has chosen to stop using the baseball bat because it simply isn't worth it.
"To avoid the situation, set of circumstances, let's just eliminate it," Rivera said. "It's the No Fun League for a reason," Rivera said.
With Beckham's appeal set for Wednesday, Rivera wondered aloud if this controversy is an attempt at spinning the situation to the Giants' advantage.
"People made more out of it than what needed to be made," Rivera said. "Who knows, maybe it's somebody's attempt at spin control."
Rivera said the Panthers reviewed video clips of the confrontation between Ball and Beckham prior to Sunday's win in MetLife Stadium, and saw and heard nothing problematic. According to Jason LaCanfora, the Giants allege that Beckham was called homophobic slurs by Ball and cornerback Josh Norman.
Rivera was emphatic that the team takes the use of homophobic language seriously. Exhibiting frustration with the lack of hard evidence that homophobic slurs were directed at Beckham, Rivera said that if there's proof this occurred, he'd like to know so he can deal with the situation appropriately.
"I'm a little disappointed in it, to be quite honest, because a lot of it has been assumptions and innuendos," Rivera said. "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. We don't."
Rivera emphasized that, should the team get confirmation that Panthers players directed homophobic slurs at Beckham, it would be addressed by the organization.
"This is a very important social issue, and we shouldn't be treating it as what it is right now, and that's a distraction," Rivera said.
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