Riley Cooper: Wrong on So Many Levels


Twitter: @Li495Akiem

Jul 31, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper (14) addresses the media concerning an internet video at the Eagles NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

For the majority of the previous week, the football world (as well as the sports world) was fixated on one video recorded independently that caught the Philadelphia Eagles’ Riley Cooper not exactly at his best.

It was a video of Cooper being recorded at a Kenny Chesney concert back in June. In it, he must have become somewhat displeased with security at the event. The result was him bellowing that he’d “fight every (N-WORD)” that was there.

At that moment, every single fan’s perception of Riley Cooper had changed. Many football and Eagles fans began to see him as another in a long line of racists and perceived racists in sports. Sports has seen many, including Ty Cobb and John Rocker.

Cooper immediately came out with an apology as soon as the video became national news. While Cooper has to be given credit for at least tweeting his apology instead of being draped behind a press conference, flanked by attorneys, there was an obvious problem with it as well.

Why didn’t Riley Cooper fess up to what he said prior to the releasing of the video? Why didn’t he acknowledge this before the video became public? And, is he apologizing for regretting what he said, or is he simply wishing that video never was recorded and released to the public?

When this became national news, Cooper found himself in a heap of hot water. The question immediately asked pertained to how the rest of his teammates (as well as other players in the league) would react to what Cooper said. This is why Cooper wished this video never became released. He should know the racial makeup by now of the NFL. This is a league that is around 70% African American. Only the NBA has a higher percentage of African American men playing it, out of the “Big 5” North American sports.

The NFL reacted swiftly with a statement of its own, saying that the league is about tolerance and embracing racial diversity. This immediately became a subject for fans to hit Commissioner Roger Goodell on, considering that he still seems OK with referring to an NFL team as the “Redskins”. Goodell, after all, makes money off “Redskins”, but makes no money off of “I’ll fight every (N-WORD) in here”.

Where Cooper was especially wrong was in his lack of recognizing his greater surroundings. No, not the crowd at the Kenny Chesney concert, but his lack of recognizing the city he plays for. Philadelphia boasts one of the largest African American populations of any city in the United States. It is the largest city in the country that is ran by a mayor who is black. The Philadelphia Eagles have a sizable percentage of its fanbase that is African American. This became as much of a public relations disaster for the Eagles as it is for himself or the league, which itself, has a huge percentage of its fanbase that is African American.

Theoretically, one had to think that if Cooper was on a football field, in pads, wearing a Philadelphia Eagles uniform, he may have turned into as much of a target by opposing defenses as Ryan Braun will seemingly be when he returns to Major League Baseball in 2014. Let’s not be surprised if Braun is immediately beaned in the leg, hip, side, or even the head on his first at-bat back.

What could’ve happened to Cooper wouldn’t be a week-by-week occasion. But, someone on an opposing team with a long memory would’ve seen Riley Cooper, thinking about what he said at that concert, and would be willing to get an unnecessary roughness flag as payback for what Cooper said.

Cooper even received mixed reactions from his own teammates. He did get praise from Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for coming forward and apologizing for what he said. Vick said he forgave him.

LeSean McCoy—not so much.

He confessed that he “can’t respect a guy like that”.

Similar to Cooper and other NFL players, Vick and Shady have experienced their own transgressions in their careers in the league. The most notable one involving Vick was when he was booked for running an underground dogfighting ring out of his home in Newport News, Virginia. That story received national headlines around 2007.

McCoy was once sued himself for assaulting a woman and kicking her off of a party bus. It’s possible that Vick is more sympathetic considering that his name has been dragged through the mud by the sporting press (like Cooper’s is now) moreso than McCoy’s ever was.

The Philadelphia Eagles have since “excused” Cooper from team activities and he’s said that he’ll be seeking counseling. But, again, would any of this be happening if the tape ever became public? Do other players, black or white, secretly harbor negative feelings about their teammates or players of another race and we just don’t know about it yet because they have yet to be recorded on tape?

One week defense that has been heard (and had to be expected the moment this story broke) is the idea that Riley Cooper’s usage of the n-word is no better than blacks themselves using the word and consistently listening to lyrics in hip-hop music that seemingly throw out the word every few words in their lyrics.

I’m a black person and I don’t use that word, but those that throw out this defense are stereotyping all African American football players as if the only thing they listen to is rap (or so-called “black” music). For all we know, a sizable percentage of NFL players may have…wait for it…wait for it…Kenny Chesney on their iPods or Pandora or Spotify playlists.

We do not know if Cooper is indeed a racist and that’s a conversation perhaps better not had. A suspension could have potentially served as a better deterrent for him. One thing is for sure—Cooper needs to be more mindful of his surroundings given the league he plays in, the teammates he plays with, and the racial makeup of the city he is representing.

Because in all of the aforementioned, there’s just as much (or perhaps more) black than there is white.