Corporate marketers were left cringing on Sunday when New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham repeatedly displayed a violent temper during a 38-35 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The 23-year-old superstar could see his business opportunities dwindle if on-field outbursts become a habit, an expert told FOXBusiness.com.
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Beckham drew three separate personal foul penalties for unnecessary roughness on Sunday while sparring with outspoken Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. One of the penalties was administered when Beckham targeted Norman for a dangerous helmet-to-helmet hit that occurred after a play had ended. The outburst drew immediate criticism from the game’s announcers, who wondered aloud why he hadn’t been ejected. Beckham faces a one-game suspension for his actions, the NFL announced Monday.
Beckham has rarely lost his temper in public in the past, and it’s unlikely that his actions on Sunday will be enough to cost him an existing sponsorship deal, according to Bob Dorfman, a sports branding expert and executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco. But repeated anger issues will cause companies to think twice before tapping Beckham as a brand ambassador.
“You let him off because it’s the first time,” said Dorfman. “If it becomes a repeatable offense, then you’ve got some problems. Then companies are starting to go, ‘Gosh, if he does this on the field, I wonder what’s happening off the field.’ That opens up a whole new can of worms.”
Less than two full seasons into his NFL career, Beckham is considered one of the NFL’s most charismatic young stars. Aside from the four-year, $10.4 million rookie contract he signed after the 2014 NFL Draft, the 23-year-old has endorsement deals with Nike (NKE), Head & Shoulders, Dunkin Donuts (DNKN), Lenovo, Danimals and ROAR beverages, according to Forbes. He’s the reigning cover athlete for EA Sports’ popular “Madden” video game series and has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.
Beckham was largely unapologetic about his clashes with Norman when talking to reporters on Sunday.
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"You are a competitor. I'm a competitor. We are always going to go at it,” Beckham said, according to the Associated Press. “Anybody who has played sports — you are competitive and you are going to go as hard as you can."
Norman, who was also penalized for roughness on Sunday, criticized Beckham’s actions after the game.
“Obviously he was on display, and we really got to see who he is,” Norman told reporters after the game, according to the Associated Press. “You go through the rigorous training we go through, and you go on the battlefield, you don’t see the way a person is until you start playing the way you play. It goes to show you, man, that you can understand what kind of player this guy is, what he is. He’s got the maturity of a little kid.”
The NFL has placed renewed emphasis on player safety in recent months amid an ongoing concussion epidemic. Corporate sponsors are wary of associating with players deemed to be engaging in risky behavior, both on and off the field.
The NFL did not immediately respond to FOXBusiness.com’s request for clarification on whether referee Terry McAuley’s crew would be reprimanded for failing to eject Beckham from the game.
“Obviously, [Beckham] can’t keep it up,” said Dorfman. “He’s got to toe the line and he’s got to apologize. He’s got to say, ‘I let my emotions get the better of me, I apologize, that’s not the way to play football.’ If he does one of those, that’ll help. And then he’s just got to control his temper from now on and just play the game and play it well, and not do this kind of thing again."
With the Giants locked in a wide-open struggle for the NFC East title, Beckham will face his share of on-field instigators during the 2015 NFL’s final few weeks. Opponents will be looking for any way to throw the dominant wide receiver off his game.