Many Buffalo Bills fans welcomed wide receiver Cole Beasley back to upstate New York after he announced he was coming out of retirement and expressed regret for how he handled criticism over his decision to not get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Beasley’s vaccine stance garnered controversy among football fans, particularly on social media. And oftentimes he would engage with and push back on his critics. At a press conference following his first practice back with the team on Tuesday, Beasley admitted that wasn’t the best approach he could have taken as a professional.
“As we know, the last two years were difficult on everybody,” Beasley said. “There were a lot of things that I wish I could have done differently. I just wanted to right a lot of wrongs around here and be with teammates and just get back to football. So we talked about a few of those things and got it sorted out.”
Beasley shared that the dustup really hit home when his son told him he was uninvited to a friend’s birthday party.
“There were some times last year where I would get some stuff from people and it would be a little frustrating just because, before, it wasn’t like that. So it was a change,” Beasley said. “There was a time last year, and it really killed me. There was a kid that came up to him and told him that he couldn’t come to his birthday party because his mom didn’t like me. He had no idea what was going on.”
Some fans appeared eager to forgive.
“@MattParrino asked Cole Beasley about his message to the fan base. Beasley gave a very authentic answer and shares how he could’ve handled things better. Really thoughtful response, or at least that’s how I felt about it,” WKBW sports director Matthew Bové tweeted with a link to the press conference.
“The buck should stop here after this,” another Buffalo fan said. “Fan opinions trickled into his family life and that’s unacceptable. He’s here to right wrongs, play a game he loves with guys he loves and help us get a ring. All aboard the Bease train, folks.”
“OK, I like him again,” Susan Milligan, a political writer for U.S. News & World Report, and “proud Buffalonian/Bills fan” tweeted.
“I love this,” the account Josh Allen Stats tweeted. “I very much do not agree with Cole Beasley on many things, that’s well documented, and that’s OK. But this is an honest way to admit he didn’t handle everything well and obviously there are people who crossed a line against him, too. Let’s just go make magic happen.”
It wasn’t all positive, however, as some seemed hesitant to look past Beasley’s vaccine status, or his tense parting with Bills fans last year.
“The guy blasted Buffalo fans on the door out the 1st time,” one Twitter user said. “He doesn’t deserve a hearty welcome back I wonder how his teammates that faced severe battles with covid feel about him returning.”
“I think it’s beyond fair for a parent not to want a child from an unvaccinated household to come to her house, it’s so sad to see so many people defend his anti-vax stance,” another said. “It’s like you’re acting as if immunocompromised/elderly/those as risk don’t matter.”
Beasley released a statement last June on his decision to not get vaccinated, saying he “may die of covid, but I’d rather die actually living.”
“I’d rather take my chances with Covid and build up my immunity that way,” he added. In other statements he blasted the NFL for its vaccine rules.
Beasley left the Bills with one year remaining on the free agent contract he had signed with the team in 2019. He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2022 season, but only made it two games into the season before announcing his retirement in October. Saturday’s game against the Miami Dolphins marked Beasley’s first game back on the Buffalo squad.