Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper has plenty of ground to make up with his teammates after a video showed him uttering a racial slur.
The 25-year-old out of Florida attended a Kenny Chesney concert in June, and a cellphone video caught him saying: “I will jump that fence and fight every n***** here bro!”
That has set off a firestorm, and created an unnecessary distraction for an Eagles team looking to bounce back quickly from a 4-12 season under new head coach Chip Kelly.
Teammates were slow to react to Cooper’s harsh words, but over the last few days several have spoken to the media at length. Thus far, there has been a mixed reaction, with some offering their opinions publicly and others wishing to remain anonymous.
Quarterback Michael Vick, the starter for the past three years but now competing for the job with second-year passer Nick Foles, came out almost immediately and said he had forgiven Cooper.
Vick tweeted: “Riley's my friend Our relationship is mutual respect. He looked me in the eyes and apologized. I believe in forgiveness and I believe in him”
The Eagles fined Cooper an undisclosed amount with no suspension, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would take no further action.
That development ruffled many Eagles players, with a prominent veteran telling Philly.com that Cooper would have received far more than a fine from former head coach Andy Reid.
"I'll tell you one thing, if it was Andy Reid, he would have gotten more than a fine," the anonymous player said on Thursday.
Running back LeSean McCoy, who considered Cooper to be a friend, responded by saying he has forgiven Cooper, but will have trouble accepting him as a teammate again.
"I forgave Riley. It's new. Hopefully it wears off," McCoy said. "But at this point, I speak for myself and other teammates, it's definitely different."
McCoy also told the NFL Network: "I can't respect a guy like that."
Cooper has said many teammates have stood by him and have accepted his apology. Fellow receiver Jason Avant said to Yahoo! Sports that Cooper’s word’s hurt him but he knows his teammate is not a racist.
“A lot of guys forgave him right away,” Avant said. “And there’s going to be guys where it takes a couple of days, or a week or a month.”
With the league already dealing with the controversy surrounding head injuries and players frequent arrests during the offseason, a discussion on race relations is one thing it probably would like to avoid. However, one player told CBS Philly that players frequently use racial slurs on the field.
“I know there are more than a few guys angry on my team [at what Cooper said], you would think that after all of these years people would be past this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone acts like an idiot and takes a shot at his knees if he’s on special teams,” said one anonymous NFL player. “The league wants to keep a lid on this as much as possible, and hopes it goes away. The ‘n-word,’ as they like to say, is all over. I will tell you this, it’s said all over—on the field, definitely in locker rooms. This is really nothing new.”
Vick's brother Marcus, also used Twitter to put a $1,000 bounty on Cooper's head. The tweets have since been taken down, but Marcus Vick said his account was hacked.
There is a growing belief that Cooper would have been released by Philadelphia if wide receiver Jeremy Maclin hadn’t suffered a season-ending torn ACL injury last weekend. Before the video came out it was thought the No. 2 receiver slot was Cooper’s to lose when Maclin went down.
A quick timeline of the tumultuous events starts with Cooper in the parking lot of the Eagles home stadium at Lincoln Financial Field. Cooper appears to be in a verbal disagreement with someone during a tailgate before the concert.
Later Cooper would unload a racial slur reportedly towards a security guard inside the stadium.
Cooper’s hurtful words didn’t go viral until Wednesday afternoon, and he issued an apology thru the media almost immediately.
His apologies aside, if the saga continues to distract the Eagles from training camp and the upcoming season, Cooper may find himself unemployed.