First Posted: 1/7/2015
SCRANTON — New York Giants fans expecting to meet rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. were left waiting for hours at The Mall at Steamtown Dec. 30. The Sports Fever-hosted autograph session quickly turned into a stressful scene with angry Giants fans berating store manager Sal Argo inside the mall’s promenade.
Beckham arrived 4 hours, 45 minutes tardy to the mall, angering many anxious fans.
Instead, football fans and memorabilia collectors were treated to two players that logged a combined total of eight games during the 2014 regular season: Bennett Jackson, a rookie out of Notre Dame that spent the season on the reserve/future list; and Prince Amukamara, a four-year cornerback that spent the second half on the injured reserve list.
Amukamara replaced starting tight end Larry Donnell, who was on the billing for the event.
More than 300 ticket-holding fans, many traveling from as far as 90 minutes away, stood in a line stretching longer than half of the nearly empty mall’s length. Text messages sent Saturday to preregistered ticket holders informed them the meet-and-greet autograph/photo session with all three Giants players would begin at 5 p.m.
A text message sent three hours prior to the start time alerted them Beckham would not arrive until 6:30 p.m.
Jackson and Amukamara arrived on time for the autograph session and were available for fans that paid for the premium tickets for all three players.
Fans, many of them children as young as 7 years old, were waiting in front of The Sports Fever since 4 p.m. Lauren Molinaro, of Jermyn, said that Argo and the event organizers did not tell her of Beckham’s tardiness until after several hours of standing.
“(Argo) didn’t have the respect to tell us that (Beckham Jr.) wasn’t here yet,” Molinaro said. “The only way we knew was because we overheard him (tell his employee) that he won’t be here until 8 p.m. We’re just standing here; it’s like we’re not human. We’re hungry. We’re tired. We’re thirsty.”
At 7:30 p.m., Argo came out to show fans a text message from Beckham’s associate. The text stated that Beckham had passed out on his couch and would not open his eyes to leave for the event. Attempts to Argo to get an estimated time of arrival were met with deaf ears.
“You don’t want to stay,” Argo said. “(Beckham) is a total jerk. He’s not going to talk to (the media).”
At the back of the line, more than two hours after the event’s approximate starting time, several Giants fans were unaware that Beckham was not even in the building. Dale Hamilton waited until 9:45 p.m. to meet the first round pick out of LSU.
One 10-year old Hazleton boy left without receiving his Christmas gift. He and his family waited for four hours with his sister before leaving at 8 p.m. His present this year was a chance to meet Beckham and get him to sign his football.
“I’m hungry, and I just want him to get here now so we can go home,” his younger sister said to her father.
One Giants fan, who asked not to be named, entered into a shouting match with Argo and store employees.
“They warned me that if I continued yelling that I’d be kicked out of the mall.”