As virtually the whole world knows by now a young man by the name of Riley Cooper, a wide receiver for the star-crossed Philadelphia Eagles football team, finds himself in a hornet's nest of trouble after having been caught on video (i.e., by a cell phone camera) uttering a racial slur while attending a country music concert.
Specifically, Cooper (who is white) was at a Kenny Chesney performance in June at Lincoln Financial Field (the Eagles' home stadium) in Philadelphia and apparently became perturbed by a black security guard and confronted him.
In the now-viral video, Cooper is clearly heard saying: "I will jump that fence and fight every [N-word] here, bro." (He later admitted he had been drinking beforehand.)
In response to this unfortunate incident, the Eagles, the NFL, Chesney and even Cooper himself came down hard on the wideout, expressing their "horror" over his statement.
In the immediate aftermath of the release of the video, Cooper tweeted the following messages: “I am so ashamed and disgusted with myself. I want to apologize. I have been offensive. I have apologized to my coach, to [Eagles’ owner] Jeffrey Lurie, to [Eagles’ general manager] Howie Roseman and to my teammates. I owe an apology to the fans and to this community. I am so ashamed, but there are no excuses. What I did was wrong and I will accept the consequences.”
So far the “consequences” have been an undisclosed fine by the Eagles, the distrust of his mostly black teammates and unknown future consequences of his loose tongue.
Cooper has issued several other mea culpas since then, including the extremely self-effacing: "This isn't the type of person I want to be portrayed as. This isn't the type of person that I am. I wasn't raised that way. I have a great mom and dad at home. And they're extremely, extremely disappointed in me. They are disgusted with my actions."
It is unclear if the NFL will hand out its own penalty, but league spokesman Greg Aiello released the following predictable comment: "The NFL stands for diversity and inclusion. Comments like this are wrong, offensive, and unacceptable."
Eagle’s owner Lurie also made similarly bone-dry dull remarks about how his club “celebrates diversity” and how the team will not tolerate such bigoted statements.
Even Chesney himself weighed in and jumped on the pitiful bandwagon, perhaps worried by how Cooper’s words reflect on him.
"I'm as shocked as anyone,” he told ESPN.
“I don't believe in discrimination in any form, and I think using language like that is not only unacceptable, it is hateful beyond words.”
Chesney also bizarrely claimed that his fans (i.e., overwhelmingly conservative, blue-collar white males) did not sympathize with Cooper.
“To judge an entire audience by one loudmouth isn't fair . . . not to the NFL, not to the city of Philadelphia and that awesome crowd, not to my band and crew and certainly not to me, who believes music is about bringing people together for friendship and forgetting about the things in life that bring you down,” Chesney said. “The music I make is about living life, loving life and loving everybody — no matter who they are. That’s how I was raised, and what someone else does or says doesn’t reflect who I am or what my fans stand for.”
Riley Cooper using the N-word is a problem that will never be resolved. This is a drama in which most everyone is trying to do the right thing, but end up looking foolish (especially Cooper himself).
First of all, if Riley Cooper was a small child who uttered the N-word and was summarily chastised and punished by his parents that would be perfectly understandable.
But he is a 25-year-old man… if he doesn’t understand that such things are wrong by now, he never will.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are in quite a pickle with Cooper because he is not a marginal player – due to the season-ending knee injury suffered by the Eagles’ top receiver Jeremy Maclin, Cooper is now the team’s No. 2 receiver, behind Desean Jackson.
If Cooper was a journeyman nobody, the Eagles would have cut him from the roster at the drop of a hat. But now, even if they wanted to trade him, it’s doubtful any club would want Cooper. So the Eagles are stuck with him – in fact, they have already sent him to ”counseling.” (It would indeed be fascinating to see what would happen if a high-profile white NFL superstar, like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, was caught in such a racial scandal.)
But keep in mind that Riley Cooper has not committed a crime, nor does he have any kind of record. Moreover, he is in a league where players have been accused (and convicted) of such offenses as assault, rape, drug abuse, drug dealing, even murder (i.e., actual crimes that badly hurt people).
Cooper’s own quarterback, one Michael Vick, has already served prison time for his charming hobby of torturing and killing helpless dogs for amusement (for the record, Vick has “accepted” Cooper’s apology.)
Let me say that I have known many, many white racists and rednecks in my life and not one of them has ever uttered the n-word “by accident.” In no case has the word ever “slipped out” (alcohol or not) and they saw absolutely nothing wrong with the word. (There are also many Asian, Hispanic and Indian people who have used the n-word in my experience as well).
I don’t know Riley Cooper at all, but I strongly doubt that the Lincoln field concert was the first time he ever spewed the n-word. To the contrary, it sounds like he was more than comfortable with it. He likely thought that no one at a Kenny Chesney concert (check the demography of country music fans) would object to the n-word, nor did he think he would be videotaped for posterity. (I also believe most white Eagle fans are secretly cheering for Cooper).
Cooper is clearly trying to save his career – an extremely well-paying job that, on average, doesn't last too long, because of the high risk of crippling injuries.
But unfortunately for Cooper (whom I would fairly describe as a “Southern redneck”) finds himself in a profession that is overwhelmingly black (at least 65 percent of NFL players are African-American, according to studies). That is a most uncomfortable (perhaps dangerous) place for a man like him to be employed in.
In a sense, he may never recover from this and will likely be tagged as a “racialist” for the rest of his life. Even if he has a sterling career and ends up in the Hall of Fame, he will always be remembered as the man who called a black security guard a ”n__ger.”
Cooper is clearly a pathetic bad guy in this tale, but so are the Eagles and the NFL. Are they really committed to “racial diversity” as they constantly crow? If so, why are so few head coaches and virtually no team owners black? Why does the league always aggressively promote white stars like the aforementioned Manning and Brady (as well as people like John Elway, Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman in prior years) more than black stars?
The NFL signs so many black players not because they “love” them or because they are enamored with “diversity” – rather, blacks are disproportionately represented in pro athletics because sports always attracts a society’s poorest and most dispossessed minorities. The NBA has already dealt with this reality and increasingly so must the NFL and Major League Baseball. (Alternatively, Lurie would sign 22 white rednecks if they could play football).
Riley Cooper is both a perpetrator and a victim of this entire sad, pathetic saga.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.