Keeping Score

NFL Player Uses Racial Slur: Where Riley Cooper, and the Philadelphia Eagles, Go From Here

A noted African-American sports sociologist, Harry Edwards, is rooting for reconciliation

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Riley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 18, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Looking for the roughest spot in sports? Head to the Philadelphia Eagles locker room.

On Wednesday, a video surfaced showing Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, who is white, hurling a racial epithet while attending a Kenny Chesney concert at Lincoln Financial Field in June. “I will jump that fence and fight every n—-r in here, bro,” he said after a confrontation with an African-American security guard. Cooper owned up to his offense. He apologized on Twitter, and while meeting with the press. “I’m disgusted,” Cooper said. “And I’m sorry. That’s not the type of person 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.” He also met with teammates Wednesday night, and delivered another apology. Cooper admitted he was drinking, but didn’t use that as an excuse. The Eagles fined Cooper an undisclosed amount.

And now his fate is out of his hands, says famed sports sociologist Harry Edwards, an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley and long-time consultant for the San Francisco 49ers.  Even if his apology is sincere,  and this was indeed an isolated incident, “there’s no way for the perpetrator to clean it up,” says Edwards, the former Black Panther whose activism helped inspire  John Carlos and Tommie Smith to raise their fists at the 1968 Olympics. “There really isn’t. No matter if you’re talking about the actor from Seinfeld, or Paula Deen, or anyone else, no one who has done that has been able to walk back to the black side of the bridge, and be totally accepted. There’s always someone looking out of the corner of their eye at them.”

Only Cooper’s teammates can clean up his mess. “Somebody in that organization, who is black, needs to stand up and say, ‘look, let’s move on,'” says Edwards. “‘His teammates have to be big enough to say, ‘we choose not to be offended. Because we know and trust this man. Did he make a mistake? Yes. Would we have preferred that he hadn’t gone there? Absolutely. But he did, he’s apologized, we know him, let’s play some football.'”

(MORE: Q&A  – Michael Vick On His New Book, Player Safety And His Time In Prison)

Cooper did himself no favors. Back in 1997, ex-NFL quarterback Kerry Collins hurled racial slurs at two teammates, but he insisted they were in jest. And they weren’t posted on the internet, for people to see in perpetuity. Cooper went viral, and his comment was far from flip. Any pro athlete would be punished if he were caught saying the n-word. But Cooper did so in the absolute wrong sport. Some 65% of NFL players are black. Cooper spends endless hours hunkered down with his African-American teammates, in confined spaces like the locker room, film rooms, and meeting rooms. If Michael Vick stays healthy and wins the starting job, Cooper — who is expected to fill in for injured Eagles starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin — will be staring at a black quarterback in the huddle. Wide receivers depend on quarterbacks for their living. No passes, no catches. Offending Vick’s race isn’t wise. (Vick said that after a 15-minute conversation with Cooper Wednesday night, he forgave him).

“Football is the quintessential team sport,” says Edwards. “The guy to your left, the guy to your right can protect you from serious injury. It’s the sport where personal connection, where trust is absolutely vital. You have to look at that guy and say, ‘yeah, that’s the brother that I’m going to down the dark alley with every Sunday.'” Cooper doesn’t just face challenges on his side of the ball.  Edwards points out that an overwhelming majority of NFL defensive backs, whose job, by definition, is to pummel Cooper, are African-American. Cooper has given these players even more motivation. (On Twitter, Vick’s brother, Marcus, put a bounty on Riley, offering $1,000 to the “first Free Safety or Strong safety that light his (butt) up!  Wake him up please …” Michael Vick distanced himself from his brother’s comments).

Assuming Cooper isn’t a serial racist, Edwards is rooting for reconciliation. “His team needs to step up and choose not to be offended,” says Edwards. “To be perfectly honest with you, that wouldn’t be a bad disposition in the society at large, at every level. Because we’re going to have to work together. We have a great opportunity, not just on behalf of this individual, but on behalf of society and the American people. Let’s move forward.”

(MORE: NFL Arrests Are Rising. Why That’s A Surprise)

26 comments
VickiReynolds-LaCourciere
VickiReynolds-LaCourciere

Michael Vic killed and tortured multiple dogs and they welcomed him back to football.  I've heard so many people talk about his remorse and forgiving.  WTF  He killed animals!!!  Riley Cooper uses a racial slur and people are going crazy.  

SammyEvans
SammyEvans

Hey look , what I don't understand is when someone said the N-Word everyone gets upset, N-Word everyone what you mean, and using the phase N-Word, is it any different than saying the word it' self. I mean if I get mad at a black person and just say you N-Word, isn't that the same as saying the word itself, think about that when you hear on TV or Radio, someone complaining that someone said the N-Word, that they are really saying the Word their self. RIGHT!!!

SammyEvans
SammyEvans

This is Bull there is not the first Black NFL player that has not used a racial slur against someone of his own race, and any player that get upset over this should not be allowed to play if anyone has ever herd  them use one.

MelodyNorton
MelodyNorton

Way too many commas in the title. For future reference-please, don't, do that, again. 

Christianlady
Christianlady

He must be forgiven because that is the Christian thing to do---But, he does not have to let back into your circle.

ValerieO'Gilain
ValerieO'Gilain

Excuse me?     "His teammates have to be big enough to say, ‘we choose not to be offended. Because we know and trust this man."   

They are free to do so, but there might be a reason they haven't done so.  Its not on the ethnic group you denigrated to come to your rescue when you say some racist nonsense.

bllrdsnja
bllrdsnja like.author.displayName 1 Like

This guy becomes a footnote, but Paula Deen gets crucified. Just utterly stupid, the same standards should apply to everyone, either give Deen her job and endorsements back or end this guy's career.

ullyceese
ullyceese

If this was a black player saying this to a black man then this would not be a problem. How is that ok, but when a white player uses that term, oh now its a problem. Grow Up. I'm sure black players have called white people "cracker" too

Christianlady
Christianlady like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ullyceese This was said with hate...and I am sure this was not the first time he said it--just the first time he was caught. A cracker is something you eat with cheese--so what's the big deal. Actually a cracker is the slave owner that cracked the whip.

cameronmasters
cameronmasters like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@ullyceese If a black guy calls another black guy 'n*gga' or n*****' (bleeped so it won't be censored) it's very different than a white person saying it. This is because of what's called ASSOCIATION. The word 'n•gga' is ASSOCIATED with what some black men call each other, in seriousness or in jest, as a way of relating. When a white guy calls a black guy a n•gga or a n***** it's ASSOCIATED with SLAVERY. Do you see the difference? There IS NO WHITE EXAMPLE OF THIS WORD, BECAUSE WHITES WERE NEVER ENSLAVED BY BLACKS IN THE UNITED STATES. Simple enough for all of you CCC members out there? 

SammyEvans
SammyEvans

@cameronmasters @ullyceese Really you sound as stupid as the  black people out there that use it everyday and nothing is said about it, So you think it's ok for a black person to use it because then it's funny, but a white person saying it means slavery. Come on now. should not the black using it be punished for using it also.

wadallace
wadallace

This man is expressing his desire to act violently against people based on their color.  And yet, we can forgive violence, but we get hung up when a white woman allows black jokes to be told in her restaurant... WHERE ARE YOUR PRIORITIES AMERICA?

JamieGunter
JamieGunter

Disappointing, but I will maintain that until the day that Black people stop using it as a jest and even brotherly word towards each other, society will not escape the word. And there are black people just as guilty of saying the same sentence or saying the same sentence with other racial slurs in them. Many are guilty.

LauraJ.Richardson
LauraJ.Richardson like.author.displayName 1 Like

@JamieGunter 26 million Blacks in America, which rapper, comedian are you referring to? If you are getting your education from this segment of society go back to school. Holding a race accountable for a few individuals is like holding all Whites accountable for an ignorant racist ball player.

SammyEvans
SammyEvans

@LauraJ.Richardson @JamieGunter sorry but I don't think saying it makes you a racist, If so then all black people are racist because blacks use it all the time.

sassy82
sassy82

@SammyEvans @LauraJ.Richardson @JamieGunter 

You just don't get it or just don't care. Play roll reverse and see how it feels to always be stereotyped. Because what you just said show you are ignorant, and that you know nothing of Black History. Go ahead and say the "N" word to anyone or any race or anybody you want to. Matter of fact say it to one of your black friends. I rest my case.

pcwag33
pcwag33

The truth behind the word doesn't disappear when the word does.

Christianlady
Christianlady

@pcwag33 And what is the truth--That there are N in ALLLLLL races. Yea! That's what you mean....

sassy82
sassy82 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@pcwag33 The truth behind the word is anyone who is ignorant, and that sound like you. That's why this country is in a mess because of stupid people like you. Oh and don't forget who cause this economy to go in recession you ass hole.

Mr.357
Mr.357

@pcwag33 And what truth are you referring to?

cjh2nd
cjh2nd like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@Mr.357

why, the only truth that matters of course: "white is right"

(sarcasm)


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