Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - A fine quickly turned into an indefinite
leave Friday as the Philadelphia Eagles continued to deal with the distraction
known as Riley Cooper.
Cooper, probably a fourth or fifth receiver on a good NFL team, became a
national news story earlier this week when a cell phone video was released
showing the University of Florida product 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.
Copper tried to get out in front of the brewing scandal by playing the
"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
The original "consequences" were a fine, one described as a substantial amount
by one NFL source, along with a stern talking to from team owner Jeffrey
"We are shocked and appalled by Riley Cooper's words," Lurie said in a
statement. "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."
If you thought that was going to be the end of this, however, you haven't been
paying attention to the national narrative.
While some teammates supported Cooper, others wanted nothing to do with him
after the scandal broke and more than one observer noticed he looked isolated
at Thursday's practice, almost ostracized. Meanwhile, to sponsors and
television people, who base their whole perspective on the perceptions of the
general public, Cooper is now a pariah stamped with the one word possibly more
powerful than the one he callously threw at an African-American security guard
An immature act by an occified 25-year-old man quickly morphed into something
so toxic the Birds, despite being woefully thin at the wide receiver position
after Jeremy Maclin's ACL injury, sent Cooper packing.
"As we have said, Riley Cooper will be seeking counseling and we have excused
him from all team activities," the team said in a statement. "This is all new
territory and we are going to evaluate this timetable every step of the way.
He will meet with professionals provided by the Eagles during this period of
time to better help him understand how his words have hurt so many, including
Copper, meanwhile, continued to delve into crisis management 101, again
professing disgust for his own actions and a desire to enter counseling. He
also embraced his banishment with the only thing missing a ceremony as he was
"The last few days have been incredibly difficult for me. My actions were
inexcusable, Cooper said. "The more I think about what I did, the more
disgusted I get. I keep trying to figure out how I could have said something
so repulsive, and what I can do to make things better.
"Right now, I think it's important for me to take some time to reflect on this
situation. The organization and my teammates have been extremely supportive,
but I also realize that there are people who will have a tough time forgiving
me for what I've done. The best thing for me, and for the team, is to step
away for a period of time.
"During this time I'm going to be speaking with a variety of professionals to
help me better understand how I could have done something that was so
offensive, and how I can start the healing process for everyone. As long as it
takes, and whatever I have to do, I'm going to try to make this right."
Sending Cooper home was probably a prudent decision by the Eagles considering
the New England Patriots are set to invade South Philly next week for a series
of practices in advance of the preseason opener for both clubs on August 9 at
Can you imagine that scenario if Cooper was still around?
Philly writers bombarding the Pats about Aaron Hernandez and Boston scribes
hammering Chip Kelly and Company with Cooper queries. Talk about pitching the
Big Top. That's a circus that makes everyone look bad with Urban Meyer
probably squirming the most somewhere in Columbus while thinking about the
wretches he sent to the NFL.
There is a bigger issue here, though, and hopefully one we can all address
once the torches and pitchforks recede a bit.
Since I'm not a African American, I don't feel comfortable telling a race of
people to ignore an issue they might feel passionate about. What I am able to
say unequivocally is that a word only has power if you allow it to have power
and we as a society have given the word Cooper used far too much potency and
authority during a time of substantial progress in race relations.
While I'm keenly aware that some African-Americans will decry my right to even
chime in on this subject, understand that's a straw man argument and one that
needs to put away for good if we ever hope to grow together.
Hindsight will inevitably record Riley Cooper as nothing more than a footnote
in Eagles history. Perhaps, though, his actions can finally spark some serious
debate on a subject far too many of us are afraid to tackle.
The Sports Network