Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. says he was not offended by people speculating that he is gay, a rumor that got turbocharged in 2015 when various Carolina Panthers used gay slurs against him in a game when he was with the New York Giants.
In a wide-ranging interview with GQ, writer Mark Anthony Green asked Beckham about the speculation about his sexuality.
GQ: There was a period of time when a lot of gossip sites — specifically black gossip sites — would constantly say that you were closeted. They’d call you “excited” in a hot-tub photo with your teammates or simply just say you’re gay. How’d that make you feel?
Beckham: I’ve never had an opportunity to talk about this. Honestly wasn’t offended. I’ve never once had no problem with anybody who has their own personal life that they live. I have friends who are gay. It was almost more funny to me. I almost messed with them even more. It’s like when someone gives me an ultimatum, I’m usually always going to go to the opposite way of what you want me to go. So when they would say that, I would almost mess with them even more. I have no problem with anyone’s sexual orientation.
GQ: I feel like posts like that only contribute to homophobia in the black community. The idea that someone must be gay — or that being gay is in any way shameful — because they’re dancing or have blond hair seems so small-minded.
Beckham: Or because they’re “close with other men.” Even like little videos where they see me leaned back or something, they’ll say that I’m looking at a guy’s ass. And I’m like, “Bro! You don’t even know where my mind is at.” It was just a lose-lose. They’d see me with a white woman and be like, “Why don’t you be with any sisters?” I have no problem with any race. Love is love. If you’re attracted to somebody, you’re attracted to somebody. There was such a stigma built up, [as though] I don’t like my own women. It’s like, no, I don’t like anybody who annoys me. [laughs]
GQ: You’ve talked a lot about media being unfair. Does it hurt worse when black media sites are unfairly critical of you?
Beckham: Yes, it makes it worse when it comes from the black community. I feel like everything is a double standard. You want us to support the black community, and then you go out and bash black people for being happy. So someone can’t be happy, someone can’t be dancing. “Oh, he’s always around guys, he’s never around girls.” I just don’t want you to see what woman I’m with, and I don’t want you in my personal life. I always try to keep my personal life my personal life. I feel like I don’t owe that to anybody.
Beckham never defines what his sexual orientation is, though I assume he is saying he is not gay, especially since he says earlier in the interview: “You never hear about the woman I’m dating or anything like that. And you won’t. I don’t need to give you that.”
Beckham was suspended one game in December 2015 after on-field altercations with then-Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. After the game, members of the Giants organization and the media said Beckham was the target of homophobic slurs on the field before the game. I asked Norman at the 2016 Super Bowl about the incident and he denied using gay slurs against Beckham.
The GQ interview was the first time I have seen Beckham address the rumors about his sexuality. I think it would have been appropriate for Green to ask Beckham to define his sexuality since he was willing to discuss the topic.
Nonetheless, I applaud Beckham’s “I don’t care” response. It is much better than acting as if being gay is something that has to be strenuously denied or referred to as “silly” and “crazy rumors” like another NFL star did. And Beckham’s “love is love” line is pitch-perfect.