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The NFL’s letter to Odell Beckham, Jr.

[Editor’s note: On Monday, the NFL informed Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. that he’ll be suspended one game for his conduct on Sunday against the Panthers. The full text of the letter to Beckham from NFL V.P. of football operations Merton Hanks appears below.]

Player safety and sportsmanship are of paramount concern to the National Football League, and illegal acts that jeopardize the safety of players or expose them to unnecessary risk will not be tolerated. At numerous times during yesterday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, your actions placed a fellow player at unnecessary risk, reflected poorly on both yourself and the National Football League, and clearly did not represent the high standards of sportsmanship expected of an NFL player. Accordingly, and by notice of this letter, you are suspended without pay for next Sunday’s December 27 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

The most egregious of your actions occurred with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter when you took a ten-yard running start and delivered a blindside block to your opponent’s head and jaw area. Your actions on that play were not only “unnecessary roughness” they also constituted “unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless position” in violation of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7. Your opponent was considered in a “defenseless position” because the path of your block was “toward or parallel to [your] own end line” and you approached your opponent from “behind or from the side.” Moreover, your contact was prohibited because you (1) left your feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into your opponent (2) lowered your helmet and initiated forcible contact with the crown or hairline parts of the helmet; and (3) forcibly struck the defenseless player’s head.

Your actions drew an unnecessary roughness penalty -- your third such penalty of the day -- and occurred just three plays after your second such penalty. Further, you took a swing at your opponent with your right hand as you ran down the field on the very same play, which was itself prohibited conduct per Rule 12, Section 2 Article 12 which prohibits “”striking, swinging at, or clubbing the head, neck or face of an opponent.”
The three plays for which you were penalized were not your only unacceptable actions in yesterday’s game. For example, with 11:26 remaining in the first quarter you used your helmet to head butt your opponent and then swung at your opponent with your right hand. With 5:33 remaining in the first quarter and then with 3:36 remaining in the first quarter you swung at your opponent, both times again with your right hand. Each of those actions were violations of Rule 12, Section 2 Article 12 of the NFL Playing Rules that were not penalized.

Your actions adversely reflected on the NFL and have no place in the game because incidents like this erode public confidence in the orderly conduct of our game as well as the good character of our participants. You are responsible to avoid such illegal and dangerous acts. The League Policies for Players states that “a player may be subject to suspension even on a first offense” depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding each case. In your case, a suspension for one game is warranted. This takes into account that your “blindside block” penalty was particularly flagrant, that it followed previous penalties, and that you had prior prohibited conduct directed at your opponent during the game. The “blindside block” was particularly flagrant because you had an unobstructed path to your opponent; the position of your opponent was not materially affected by any other player; and your contact with his head was avoidable.

Your suspension begins immediately and you may not practice with the team or otherwise participate in any football activities for the Giants during your suspension. Your suspension will conclude following the upcoming game. Needless to say, any further violations to playing rules will subject you to potentially more significant discipline. You may, if you wish, appeal this suspension by logging on to the League office’s secure website [omitted]. When the login screen appears, enter the following information in the designated fields: (1) this fine number [omitted]; (2) your last name [Beckham]; and (3) this pin number [omitted]. Once logged in, you will be able to submit an appeal notice and view the video of the play referenced above. Please be advised that your appeal notification must be received by Commissioner Goodell within 3 business days of notification of the fine. Please email [omitted] if you experience any problems getting onto the website or viewing the video footage.

If you file a timely written appeal pursuant to Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a hearing will be conducted by the hearing officer upon receipt of your notice of appeal. Because the discipline here involves a suspension, you may request that your appeal be heard on an expedited basis. The hearing officer may consider any relevant evidence, whether by testimony, video or otherwise. This may include evidence not available when the suspension was imposed, as well as any evidence that you and your representative present. To schedule a hearing, please log on to the website [omitted] using the same login information referenced in the paragraph above. You will be able to access the web calendar as soon as your appeal notice has been submitted to the Commissioner. You must select a date and time for your appeal hearing on the web calendar.

League rules prohibiting hits on defenseless players and unnecessary roughness are a point of emphasis. They exist to protect both you and your colleagues from unnecessary risk. Your passion for the game and competitiveness should be celebrated, but going forward, you must demonstrate respect for the game, your opponents, the game officials, and the fans.

Upon your return from your suspension, I encourage you strongly to conform your play to the rules so that there will be no need to consider any further disciplinary action up to and including further suspension.