TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — NFL free agent Odell Beckham Jr. was escorted off an American Airlines flight Sunday before takeoff at Miami International Airport after failing to respond to requests to buckle his seatbelt and appearing to be unconscious.
According to the Miami-Dade Police Department, officers were dispatched to the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver’s flight around 9:30 a.m. in regard to a medical emergency.
“The flight crew was concerned for [Beckham], as they tried to wake him to fasten his seatbelt, he appeared to be coming in and out of consciousness, prior to their departure,” a statement from police said.
In fear that Beckham’s condition would worsen throughout the expected five-hour flight, flight attendants notified police and fire rescue.
“Upon the officer’s arrival, the flight crew asked Mr. Beckham several times to exit the aircraft, which he refused,” the statement added. “The aircraft was deplaned, at which time Mr. Beckham was asked by the officer to exit the plane, and did so without incident.”
A video recording appeared to show the free-agent wide receiver being escorted off the plane by Miami-Dade officers. Authorities noted he was taken to the non-secure area of the terminal where he made other arrangements.
Following the incident, American Airlines confirmed the passenger incident without identifying the free agent saying, “American Airlines flight 1228, with service from Miami (MIA) to Los Angeles (LAX), returned to the gate before takeoff due to a customer failing to follow crew member instructions and refusing to fasten their seatbelt. The customer was removed and the flight re-departed at 10:54 a.m. local time.”
A statement from Beckham’s attorney, Daniel Davilier disputed the official police report, saying the following:
“Earlier today, Odell Beckham Jr boarded a morning flight in Miami without any problems. The flight was delayed after boarding and prior to take off. Mr Beckham fell asleep with his blanket over his head, which is his normal practice for long flights.
“He was awaken 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. 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.
“At no time was Mr Beckham disruptive or combative. He was willing to comply with the seatbelt requirement, but the flight attendant wanted to prove that he had the authority to have Mr Beckman removed from the flight.
“The airline proceeded to send Mr Beckham’s luggage to Los Angeles without him. That incident was unnecessary.
“Sleeping on a plane should not be a cause for removal from a flight. If they could wake him up when the flight returned to the gate, then they could have done the same thing to ask him to put on his seatbelt.“
In a series of tweets hours after the incident, Beckham said, “Never in my life have I experienced what just happened to me… I’ve seen it alll.. Never. In. My . Life. I COULD NEVER MAKE THIS UP.”