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Ron Rivera: Panthers losing bats as ploy, denies gay slurs used

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Why was Beckham so bothered by slur? (2:45)

The Dan Le Batard Show reacts to Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.'s claim that a Panthers practice squad player used gay slurs toward him before Sunday's matchup. (2:45)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he will no longer allow his team to bring baseball bats onto the field before games and denied reports that his players directed homophobic slurs at New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. before Sunday's contest.

Rivera called reports that at least one of his players made a homophobic slur toward Beckham before Sunday's game "somebody's attempt at spin control.''

Rivera said the same thing about reports that Beckham felt threatened by a baseball bat Carolina players had during pregame warm-ups as an excuse for why the star receiver lost his composure and got three personal fouls in his battle against cornerback Josh Norman.

"It's the 'No Fun League' for a reason."

Ron Rivera, after announcing Panthers would end bat motivational ploy

The league suspended Beckham for one game on Monday. Beckham's appeal will be heard Wednesday by James Thrash, sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Beckham will attend the hearing at the league's office, a source said, and a decision is expected quickly after the hearing concludes.

Nevertheless, Rivera said his players no longer will use the bat as a motivational symbol as the Panthers (14-0) chase a perfect regular-season record.

"Because I'll hear it if I don't [end it],'' Rivera said Tuesday. "That's the truth of the matter. I'm going to end up hearing it, so to avoid the set of circumstances let's just eliminate it. That's what we're going to do.

"[The NFL], it's the 'No Fun League' for a reason.''

In a memo responding to the Panthers carrying bats onto the field to use as motivation, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent reminded teams "that no foreign objects unrelated to the uniform or playing equipment are permitted on the playing field and sidelines on game day (which includes the pregame period, during the game, and postgame on the field).

"While we realize that teams and individual players may have items they use for motivation or to symbolize a theme that the team has used this season, we ask that you instruct your club personnel and players to leave those items in the locker room. For the purposes of this policy, 'foreign objects' broadly encompasses any item that is neither intrinsic to the game nor necessary to conduct pregame drills and treat and prepare players for the game."

Vincent asked teams to advise "players and personnel that they will be subject to discipline for any violations of the policy set forth above."

A Giants source told ESPN's Ian O'Connor on Monday that Giants players on the field heard Panthers defensive players directing anti-gay slurs and expletives at Beckham before the game. A source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Beckham felt threatened when Ball carried the baseball bat onto the field in pregame warm-ups and motioned with it toward the receiver while making comments.

The source told Schefter that helped put Beckham in a certain state of mind that led to the penalties, including a helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman.

Rivera called the sourced reports part of the "soap opera'' the NFL has become.

Rivera said he talked to practice squad player Marcus Ball, who was identified as a player who exchanged words with Beckham while carrying the bat during pregame warm-ups.

Rivera said Ball denied using homophobic slurs or threatening Beckham.

"Marcus has given me no reason not to believe what he told me,'' Rivera said. "I heard nothing. Several of the people that were around him heard nothing to be construed as something homophobic.''

Rivera said nobody has presented him with any "concrete'' evidence to believe the Panthers did anything wrong.

"But I keep hearing all these things everybody is saying everybody else is saying,'' Rivera said. "So that disappoints me. If there's something out there that's factual, that's truth, that's hard evidence, please present it to us as well so we can act accordingly.

"We don't tolerate that here.''

Rivera called the whole situation with the bat a "huge misunderstanding.'' He reminded reporters that other teams have used bats on the field as a symbol in this and past seasons.

Carolina cornerback Bene' Benwikere used the bat as a prop during pregame introductions before a game against Atlanta two weeks ago to symbolize the Panthers' intention to "keep bringing the wood.''

Benwikere suffered a season-ending broken leg in that game, so players took the bat with them to the New York game.

Norman, also seen on video holding the bat during pregame warm-ups, said he "couldn't'' talk about the situation. Other players consistently turned the conversation to this week's game against Atlanta at the mention of Beckham and the bat story.

Cornerback Teddy Williams called the whole thing "nonsense.''

But Rivera didn't hide his feelings on everything that has surfaced over the past 24 hours.

"This is a very important social issue,'' he said, referring to the claim of using homophobic slurs. "We shouldn't be treating it as what it is right now, and that's as a distraction.

"We're not pushing anything from the league. All we're doing is reacting to what's being thrown at us by people who are saying they're being told stuff. Well, who's telling you?''

Rivera said the problem with the whole situation is "there's a lot of hearsay.''

"Maybe it's spin control by somebody,'' he said.

Rivera said his focus is on Atlanta and what it will take to get to 15-0 and wrap up home field throughout the NFC playoffs, which they will with a win.

"Who knows, maybe what we've heard is somebody trying to get us out of our game,'' he said. "Let's don't worry about it. Let's focus on playing the game.''