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

— -- 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 announced his new policy regarding the baseball bats Tuesday, one day after photos and videos surfaced of star cornerback Josh Norman and practice squad player Marcus Ball carrying a black bat on the field during warm-ups.

Referring to the issue as a "soap opera," Rivera said he wanted to eliminate the pregame bat tradition as a topic of potential controversy.

"[The NFL] is the 'No Fun League' for a reason," Rivera said.

A Giants source had told ESPN's Ian O'Connor Monday that Giants players on the field heard Panthers defensive players directing anti-gay slurs and expletives at Beckham before the game.

Rivera said Tuesday that Ball denied using any slurs toward Beckham, and stated that he believed his player.

Rivera also said that he considers homophobic slurs "an important social issue."

"If there's something else out there that happened, tell us," Rivera said. "We don't tolerate that here."

A source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Beckham felt threatened when Ball carried a black baseball bat onto the field during warm-ups Sunday and was motioning with it toward the receiver while making comments, and it helped put him in a certain state of mind for a game in which he was penalized three times for unnecessary roughness, including a helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman.

Beckham was suspended one game by the NFL 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.

Rivera said the bat and slur story was nothing more than "someone's attempt at spin control.''

Norman said he "couldn't'' talk about the situation. At the mention of Beckham and the bat story, other players consistently turned the conversation to this week's game against Atlanta.

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

ESPN's David Newton contributed to this report.