Extra Points: Eagles' Cooper steps on the third rail
Philadelphia, PA – The Philadelphia Eagles' Riley Cooper is about to find out about the third rail in American culture, an issue so "charged" that it's almost career suicide to broach it.
Cooper, of course, did more than broach the subject of racism. He stepped in a big pile of it by uttering the n-word in a more than offensive way during a drunken rant at a Kenny Chesney concert back in June at Lincoln Financial Field.
Why it took nearly two months for cell phone video to surface of the incident can be debated, but it was released Wednesday and Cooper is clearly heard yelling at an African-American security guard: "I will jump that fence and fight every (n-word) in here."
Not a smart move for the fourth-year receiver out of the University of Florida, who happens to play in a league predominantly made up of African Americans and in a city where whites are the minority.
"I am so ashamed and disgusted with myself," Cooper said after the video was released on a Philadelphia-based blog. "I want to apologize. I have been offensive. I have apologized to my coach, to (team owner) Jeffrey Lurie, to (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."
The consequences were a fine, one described as a substantial amount by one NFL source.
"We are shocked and appalled by Riley Cooper's words," Lurie said. "This sort of behavior or attitude from anyone has no role in a civil society. He has accepted responsibility for his words and his actions. He has been fined for this incident."
Cooper admitted he was drinking when he aimed the slur at the security guard but to his credit quickly brushed that off as an excuse.
"That's no excuse for what I said. I don't use that term," he said. "I was raised better than that. I have a great mom and dad, and they're disgusted with my actions."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday on ESPN Radio that the league will not further punish Cooper for his use of the racial slur, citing the fact that he has already been fined by the Eagles and the current collective bargaining agreement does not allow for discipline from both the NFL and an individual team for the same incident.
"Obviously we stand for diversity and inclusion," Goodell said on the "Mike and Mike" program. "Comments like that, they are obviously wrong, they are offensive and they are unacceptable. There is no one that feels stronger about that than the NFL, our teams and our players."
"He has accepted responsibility for it. He has spoken to his team. He has been disciplined by the club and will go through some training with the club to understand," Goodell continued.
In today's polarized society, however, it's unlikely Cooper will be able to put this issue behind him quickly.
For a country that is proud of its reputation as a melting pot, the treatment of African-American slaves, often characterized by inhuman brutality and degradation, remains the most embarrassing part of its history.
Today, of course, the United States has made substantial progress and a black man with a Muslim-sounding name is President of the United States. African- Americans have risen to the roles of Secretary of State, Supreme Court Justice, Attorney General and National Security Advisor. Compare that kind of record to some of the so-called enlightened European countries and you'll quickly figure out that this country is actually pretty darn progressive.
That doesn't mean things are perfect of course but a civil rights movement once steered by great men like Martin Luther King Jr. has now been commandeered by the Al Sharptons of the world, men who have turned it from a righteous cause into a cottage industry which preys on its constituents in an effort to accrue power for a chosen few.
Flimflam men like Sharpton would like you to believe there has been no progress and are like sharks in the water when they see a high-profile target like Cooper. And make no mistake they will be aiming at Cooper in the coming weeks in an effort to curry favor wherever they can.
"This is the lowest of lows," Cooper said. "This is not the type of person I want to be portrayed as. This isn't the type of person I am. I'm extremely sorry."
Already Marcus Vick, the outspoken younger brother of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, took to Twitter to lambast Cooper for his behavior.
"Riley Cooper your a expletive expletive Boy!!!" Marcus Vick Tweeted. "Racist peace (sic) of expletive."
Michael's ever so even-tempered brother then attempted to put a bounty on Cooper:
"Hey I'm putting a bounty on Riley's head," Vick's Tweet read. "1k to the first Free Safety or Strong safety that light his ass up! Wake him up please..."
Michael Vick, painfully aware of how scandal can affect people, was far more forgiving after hearing Cooper apologize to the team.
"As a team we understood because we all make mistakes in life, and we all do and say things that maybe we do mean and maybe we don't mean," The Birds QB said .
"But as a teammate I forgave him. We understand the magnitude of the situation. We understand a lot of people may be hurt and offended, but I know Riley Cooper. I know him as a man. I've been with him for the last three years, and I know what type of person he is."
Vick also distanced himself from his brother.
"I don't agree with what my brother is saying," Michael said. "Riley is still my teammate, and he just stood in front of us and apologized for what he said. Somewhere deep down you've got to find some level of respect for that. "
The cynic in me believes Cooper would have already been cut if Jeremy Maclin didn't go down with a torn ACL over the weekend. This just isn't worth the trouble.
That said, the Eagles lack depth at the receiver position and Cooper has proven to be a steady if unspectacular player since arriving from Gainesville in the 2010 NFL Draft as a fifth-round selection. The plan now seems to be trending toward education and rehabilitation.
"In meeting with Riley yesterday, we decided together that his next step will be to seek outside assistance to help him fully understand the impact of his words and actions," the Eagles said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. "He needs to reflect. As an organization, we will provide the resources he needs to do so."
Being called a racist is the 21st century version of the Scarlet letter.
Still it's hard to feel sorry for Cooper and some might even find it fitting that he is being labeled with that designation, an appropriate punishment for a person who tagged an entire group of people with the most offensive term of them all.
Others understand progress is only made in third-rail issues when people have the courage to talk about them in an open and honest way.
None of us really know what Riley Cooper thinks about African-Americans but people usually regress to certain default settings when alcohol is involved and Cooper's base instincts were as ugly as it gets, something the receiver seems to understand and wants to change.
"I know no one in Philadelphia is happy with me right now," Cooper said. "I accept that. I hope they see the true me and accept my apology. I know it will take a while."
If the secret of redemption truly lies in remembrance, Cooper needs to own his mistakes and move forward from there. So far he's off to a good start but that's all it is -- a start. Here's hoping others out for their own self- aggrandizement stay out of the way and let him shoot for the finish line.
After all, we all need a second chance sometimes.