Odell Beckham Jr. revealed in a new GQ cover story that he felt “disrespected” by the New York Giants when they traded him to the Cleveland Browns earlier this offseason and that things got so bad at times the past few years that he had contemplated stepping away from the game.
The wide-ranging interview talked about everything from Beckham’s happiness (he says he’s happier now than ever), his musical taste, rumors about being gay (he says he found it humorous), his hair, The Catch, the trade and the Giants.
Beckham was drafted by the Giants in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. He became a superstar and record-smashing receiver in New York. He was traded in March.
“My initial reaction was not disappointment…. I felt disrespected. Like, after everything I’ve done for them,” Beckham said. “This is me being honest: This team has not been good for the last six years. Period. Even the year we went to the playoffs and everyone was talking about this and that. And we went there, and I didn’t have a great playoff game. Don’t get me wrong, I had a terrible game. But I left the game with seven targets, and I’m supposed to be your number one receiver. I left the game with seven targets. We lost. They scored 40 points. It’s just all bad.
“I felt disrespected, because I felt like I was a main reason at keeping that brand alive. They were getting prime-time games, still, as a 5-and-11 team. Why? Because people want to see the show. You want to see me play. That’s just real rap. I’m not sitting here like, ‘It’s because of me.’ But let’s just be real. That’s why we’re still getting prime-time games. I felt disrespected they weren’t even man enough to even sit me down to my face and tell me what’s going on.”
Beckham’s anger was directed at general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur. Gettleman famously said on multiple occasions the Giants didn’t sign Beckham to trade him. Shurmur has said that the trade wasn’t personal but instead a football decision.
Neither seem to be at the top of Beckham’s Christmas card list, although his relationship with co-owner John Mara seems much more amicable post-trade.
“I’ll forever have respect for [Giants president and CEO] Mr. Mara. Everything he’s ever done for me, he’s shown nothing but love,” Beckham said. “Even when we were having our talks, it was coming from a place of love. I could always feel it. So I’ll forever have respect for him.
“But then to be called like that and then be texted by your coach and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I heard the news.’ Yeah, you heard the news? It happened because of you. The reason I’m gone is because of you. It was just tough because of the way I initially felt. On the other side of it, I was excited about a new start because I had been … honestly, I had been praying to God the season before this season for a change.”
Beckham said there were times last season when he was pacing up and down the sidelines asking, “Why did you sign me?” He signed a then-record five-year extension potentially worth $95 million before the season.
The Giants finished 5-11 and he missed the final four games of the season with a leg injury. It was the final chapter of a rocky five-year run in New York that included memorable and questionable moments, like his one-handed catch during his rookie year against the Dallas Cowboys, and celebrating by pretending to pee on the field in Philadelphia during the 2017 season.
The spotlight in the big city was on Beckham from the moment he arrived. It took on new levels with the catch and his on-field scuffle with cornerback Josh Norman.
The intense scrutiny sometimes got the best of Beckham. Football was becoming a business, not a game. That was what he was hoping to avoid, he said, but it forced him to contemplate retirement and think about how life would be different had he chosen a different sport.
“All the time, bro. Literally every day. Especially on those days I’m down,” Beckham said. “I could’ve done any sport in the world. Not many people know, but I used to talk to my momma and I’d be like, ‘Ma, if I was done doing this now, would you still be proud of me?’ And this was a couple of years ago, about two or three years ago.”
Beckham was setting records two or three years ago. He had the most receptions and second-most receiving yards in NFL history through 50 career games.
Still, it was a rollercoaster he contemplated disembarking.
“Twenty-four years old. Just off it. To love something so much to a place where it is my everything, and to watch it be tainted, or all kinds of things be in the middle of it. Like, it hurt me to my soul,” Beckham said. “It be like loving someone and putting them on such a level to where life is about them and you love that person through anything. Through the good, the bad. And to watch them do something so heinous and vulgar. Something just so, like, almost unforgivable. You still love them, but it’s, like, Wow,”