NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr has blamed an “overzealous” flight attendant for an incident which saw him being escorted by police off an American Airlines plane at Miami International Airport on Sunday.
Odell was expecting to fly to Los Angeles early on Sunday, but a clash with the flight attendants over whether or not he was refusing to fasten his seatbelt in preparation for takeoff resulted in him being booted off the plane.
A spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Police Department which responded to the incident, said its officers received reports that Odell appeared to be “slipping in and out of consciousness”, leading the flight crew to fear for his safety.
Flight attendants reportedly asked Odell several times to deplane after the aircraft had returned to the gate but he refused to do so. Airline staff then ordered all of the passengers off the plane and Odell was escorted off the otherwise empty plane by law enforcement.
Odell’s lawyer says his client never refused to fasten his seatbelt but had fallen asleep during a ground delay and hadn’t heard the flight attendant request for him to fasten his seatbelt.
“Me Beckham fell asleep with his blanket over his head, which is his normal practice for long flights,” Odell’s lawyer explained. “He was awaken(ed) and told that the plane was back at the gate and that he needed to get off the plane because he did not put his seatbelt on when asked,” the statement continued.
“He responded that he was asleep and that he would put his seatbelt on at that time. He was informed that it was too late and that either he would have to get off the plane or everyone would have to deplane”.
“The overzealous flight attendant insisted on removing everyone from the plane instead of simply allowing Mr Beckham to fasten his seatbelt and proceed with the flight”.
His lawyer says Odell was not disruptive or combative and that he remained willing to cooperate with the seatbelt rules, “but the flight attendant wanted to prove that he had the authority to have Mr Beckham removed from the flight”.
American Airlines said in its own statement that flight AA1228 was forced to return to the gate prior to takeoff because a customer was refusing to obey crew member instructions.
Odell has also seemingly commented on the incident, taking to Elon Musk’s Twitter to say: “Never in my life have I experienced what just happened to me… I’ve seen it all,” and “I could never make this up”.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.