The message surrounding Odell Beckham Jr. during his five-year NFL career is similar to others who have trod his path before him.
He’s the diva wide receiver. He’s petulant. He’s immature. He’s there for himself and the highlights.
It’s a familiar trope well-known by the Michael Irvins, Terrell Owenses and Randy Mosses of the football world.
With his new surroundings in Cleveland, he’s working hard to shed that diva label with efforts like his new YouTube channel.
Diva label follows Beckham
Some of Beckham’s storyline is self-inflicted.
There’s the in-game fighting with Josh Norman. There’s the infamous Miami boat photo before an ugly playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. There’s the video of Beckham in bed with an Instagram model in possession of unknown substance.
But much of it ignores the realities of Beckham’s lot in life. He’s one of the most successful athletes in the world and in very select company who can make the argument in the NFL that he’s the best at what he does.
He didn’t get there by accident. Beckham is blessed with uncommon natural abilities. But he’s worked hard to harness those talents to reach the top of his profession.
As much of the messaging around him focuses on the “diva” storyline, Beckham is making concerted efforts to control his own narrative.
Beckham’s dedicated YouTube channel
Beckham launched his YouTube channel on Tuesday, and it’s dedicated to — you guessed it — Odell Beckham.
And he wants you to know that while he’s enjoying the fruits of his labor, he worked hard to get to where he is.
“I think when people hear my name ... there’s this certain perception or persona,” Beckham says in introducing the channel. “It’s true I like to have a good time, celebrate. But that’s only part of the story.
“The real Odell. He works.”
It’s the latest effort from Beckham since he joined the Cleveland Browns to take a sledgehammer to his media image that often paints him as a trouble-maker despite a largely clean off-field record.
Beckham fresh off GQ profile criticizing media
“Probably not,” Beckham said when asked if he had done anything “more inappropriate” than Gronkowski. “It's the same thing. It's like, Why can't I have fun?
“People tell me I'm supposed to be a role model. Well, what are they supposed to be? We're human beings at the end of the day. We earned the right to play in the NFL, but we also earned a life of our own.”
Beckham has worked with LeBron James
Last August, he appeared on LeBron James’ HBO show “The Shop,” a forum for athletes to share their points of view without the filter of traditional media. He said then that he sometimes feels like a “show punk, a show monkey” for the expectations that surrounded him in New York among fans demanding his attention.
That he was working with James — the U.S. athlete perhaps most obsessed with controlling his narrative through his own media — is indicative of Beckham’s approach.
New start for OBJ
Beckham’s starting his Browns tenure with a chip on his shoulder.
Despite a tenure with the New Giants that included three straight Pro Bowls to start his career, he was ultimately discarded by an ownership group that’s one of the most buttoned-up in the NFL and a general manager in Dave Gettleman hell-bent on creating a team in his own image, no matter the cost in talent.
Beckham didn’t fit the perceived mold of what a New York Giant should look like. And he ultimately ended up being shipped out of town.
Despite the animosity, it’s a significant upgrade for Beckham in the long-run. He’s leaving a franchise that won more than six games just once in his time in New York and has no discernible blue print for the future.
He’s joined arguably the most exciting young roster in the NFL with a quarterback in Baker Mayfield cut from a similar, brash cloth as his.
Leaving the spotlight of New York for Cleveland surely burned. But there’s no reasonably arguing that Beckham hasn’t made a significant football upgrade.
And with that fresh start, Beckham is seizing the opportunity to re-write his narrative.
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