FanDuel - WFBC

August 01, 2013

Philadelphia Eagles' Riley Cooper apologizes for racial slur: Saying he was "ashamed and disgusted" with himself, Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper apologized repeatedly for making a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert that was caught on video and led to him getting fined.

posted by BornIcon to football at 10:54 AM - 36 comments

Short of building a time machine and going back to the concert to rethink saying the word, I think Cooper has done everything within his power at this point. He apologized to his teammates and the public and he clearly does not expect the situation to be forgiven and forgotten immediately. He may have fucked up in a grand fashion, but he is handling the situation like a stand-up human being.

posted by tahoemoj at 12:10 PM on August 01

but he is handling the situation ....about the best that a redneck racist clown can.

Or better yet, as best as his agent and publicist write for him.

Eagles have to dump the guy. Quickly.

posted by cixelsyd at 12:44 PM on August 01

I have to agree with tahoemoj - he fucked up badly, he's doing sensitivity training and saying all the right things - he deserves the opportunity to make it right. Holding on to him actually puts more pressure on him to change his ways than dumping him would.

posted by dfleming at 01:51 PM on August 01

If the Eagles keep him, it's because he's too important to the team to dump. No PR campaign is good enough to make people unhear him using that word in anger against a black security guard.

It's a banner year for Tim Tebow's old Florida teammates in the NFL.

posted by rcade at 02:03 PM on August 01

about the best that a redneck racist clown can.

Glass houses.

posted by yerfatma at 02:24 PM on August 01

We've all said stupid shit in anger, often when we've been drinking. Sometimes that stupid shit is racist, sometimes it is homophobic, sometimes it is misogynistic, and sometimes it lashes out at or belittles someone for a different reason. Sometimes the user of those words is actually a racist or other form of bigot, but sometimes they've just lost control and said something stupid. Other times, they regret it as soon as it is said. If your expectation for society is that these things will never happen, you will live life in a constant state of disappointment.

Personally, I just want people to own up to what they've done and try to make it right, or at least some semblance of right. You can't unsay something. You can stand in front of your peers, teammates, and others who you have belittled and admit saying something stupid. I think he's done that. You can also make a concerted affort to be better going forward. The jury is out on that one.

posted by tahoemoj at 02:52 PM on August 01

Glass houses.

+1

posted by phaedon at 05:02 PM on August 01

Is it possible for me to agree with the "glass houses" assessment yet simultaneously recoil at the false equivalency between "the N-word" and "redneck racist clowns" that such an assessment seems to posit?

posted by Hugh Janus at 06:58 PM on August 01

There's an opportunity for Cooper in this. I think Tim Hardaway would tell him that.

posted by beaverboard at 07:59 PM on August 01

We've all said stupid shit in anger, often when we've been drinking.

That's true, but alcohol can't make a stone bleed. I've seen it too often, whatever vice a person believes but keeps hidden from the world, be it racism, misogyny, anti-semitism, homophobia, or what have you, put enough alcohol in that body and watch it come to the surface. No matter how well Cooper mans up here, apparently the context and circumstance was enough to make Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson speak out against him. Now, say what you will about those two, but I don't see Cooper as an Eagle come opening day.

posted by NerfballPro at 10:34 PM on August 01

That's true, but alcohol can't make a stone bleed. I've seen it too often, whatever vice a person believes but keeps hidden from the world, be it racism, misogyny, anti-semitism, homophobia, or what have you, put enough alcohol in that body and watch it come to the surface.

True, but sometimes people get so pissed that they say awful things they don't even mean just because they want to hurt the other person. Not that that's what happened with Cooper, but if you've lived a life without having that kind of thing happen, I'm deeply envious.

posted by LionIndex at 11:45 PM on August 01

Look, the guy's obviously wired such that he considers himself superior to other races of people. That is bad chemistry.

It so happens that many of the key players on his team are from a race he places himself above. Players that are much better at their craft than he is. Players who are leaders on the team. Players who are deeply offended by his comments.

Can't have a guy like that in the locker room.

posted by cixelsyd at 12:15 AM on August 02

How the tape got out. I love Deadspin offering exactly $23.17 for it.

To me, the context makes what he said even more awful. He was at a Kenny Chesney concert, presumably surrounded by whites, and he uses a racial slur against black security guards. I don't know how many whites are throwing racist insults at black workers at country concerts, but all of them are enormous dillweeds.

Though we can blame the nine hours of drinking he'd reportedly been doing, ultimately the act itself is so vile it doesn't matter whether it's a window into his soul or not.

If I was on Cooper's PR team, I'd be putting him in alcohol rehab instead of sensitivity training. People will find it easier to blame booze than to believe one don't-be-a-dillweed class rehabilitated him.

posted by rcade at 08:03 AM on August 02

Having grown up white in the segregated South, I have to be a believer in people being able to change and walk a better path. From the heart, or at the very minimum least from deeply acquired habit through daily living, as I don't think it can be schooled in with a handful of well-intentioned reorientation sessions.

Here's the well-known photo of George Wallace and Connie Harper. People have made well of it, ill of it, and fun of it over the years, but to me it depicts a journey that folks I know have made sincerely.

Regardless of all the media coverage and national outrage over how things were in the South during the Civil Rights era and before, if enough individual citizens hadn't taken that type of journey within themselves, the South might currently still be only one or two steps away from Bull Connor turning on the fire hoses.

Cooper's progress hangs in the balance. Any progress that can be made is critical on any scale, national or individual. This is fragile stuff. There are no guarantees. We still have a long way to go toward the goal of equality, and we can go backward very quickly at any moment, as evidenced by the Supreme Court's recent ruling on the Voting Rights Act, and the current activities of the North Carolina legislature.

posted by beaverboard at 09:39 AM on August 02

Look, the guy's obviously wired such that he considers himself superior to other races of people.

I guess I just don't read that much into it. I can't tell you whether or not Cooper thinks he is superior, and I don't think the video in question can tell you that. The only thing that video tells me for certain is that Cooper is an idiot when he's drinking. He may or may not be a bigoted fuck, but I don't think a drunken video is conclusive evidence that he is.

ultimately the act itself is so vile it doesn't matter whether it's a window into his soul or not.

Was it really that severe? The words were shitty and have no place in decent society, but it's not like he (a) has a history of using it (he might, I don't know); or (b) attacked the guy and beat on him for his race. He insulted the guy in a drunken fit. On the scale of "vile" actions, it just doesn't seem that severe to me.

posted by tahoemoj at 11:36 AM on August 02

Was it really that severe?

Yeah, I'd say throwing that word out in anger at some black guys just doing their job is pretty vile. The fact it's less vile than other things he could have done is irrelevant.

NFL.Com is calling it a "racially insensitive comment" in a story today, but that's not true. It was a racist comment.

Do I think Cooper should be shunned forever? No. But let's not sugar coat what he did either.

posted by rcade at 11:50 AM on August 02

Do I think Cooper should be shunned forever? No. But let's not sugar coat what he did either.

So what do you propose as a solution? My opening premise was that he stood in front of his teammates and the world and showed contrition, he's addressing the issue through training, and, at this point, it is about the best that could be expected. On the other end of the spectrum, cixelsyd seems to believe that Cooper should be excummunicated from the league (sorry if a paraphrase wrong). What do you think? Is there an in-between? You describe the action as "vile," and I don't disagree with that characterization.

The fact it's less vile than other things he could have done is irrelevant.

Irrelevant to what? My point was that it was shitty, but could have been much shittier. I'd say then that the fact that it was less vile than other things is precisely the point, and not irrelevant.

It was racist. It was stupid. It was low class. It was objectively shitty. So where does that leave the discussion? Is Cooper a racist? Maybe. Should the Eagles cut ties with him? I'd say the answer is yes, but if and only if he becomes a locker room cancer because he can't reconcile his relationship with his teammates. But he shouldn't be released merely for saying something stupid and racist. That zero-tolerance approach would set a pretty dangerous precedent, wouldn't it? Where is the line drawn then? If a black player calls a white guy a "cracker," is he to be expelled from his team? If a player refers to a Native American teammate as "Chief," should he be dismissed? If a player calls a woman a "bitch," which is sexist and misogynistic, should he be let go? What if one player calls another a "cocksucker," either in jest or in anger? Is that a homophobic slur, which should certainly be equated with a racial slur, and warrant dismissal?

I think Cooper has done what he can to rectify what he did wrong. Whether his teammates choose to accept his apology is their business. But screaming for his head because he got drunk and said something stupid in anger is a gross overreaction, in my opinion.

posted by tahoemoj at 12:20 PM on August 02

I think you have a good point, in amongst the false equivalencies.

What is happening and will continue to happen in Riley Cooper's near future is hard to say. He -- and anyone else who drops racial epithets in that manner -- has a poison inside that he needs to rid himself of, or never again allow to leak out.

Aside from the internal fixing, I think you're right, he's done all he can by apologizing and enrolling in sensitivity therapy. The screaming for his head is a sideshow. But what Cooper will have to deal with now are the consequences of his poison.

Most top football players and most white racists have something in common. They live in a society that's likely to give them a pass for any but the most severe transgressions, because they're either too valuable to the team in the case of football stars, or because punishing them causes the majority an uncomfortable level of self-reflection in the case of racists.

I think it would be healthier in the long run for those affected by this -- Cooper, the Eagles, the security team at the Kenny Chesney concert, NFL fans, internet pundits, etc. -- if in fact there were inevitable consequences headed Cooper's way. Acknowledgement does not a lesson make. Perhaps Cooper's contrition is heartfelt and he is on the way to expunging the poison of racism from his heart. But the institutions involved must also react: not just from the Eagles or the NFL, but from the fans and from the pundits, there must be consequences for racist displays if we are to ever eradicate racism from the larger society.

It's also good for other racists to see that when their poison leaks out like that, no matter how elite or celebrated they may be, they become a liability to the people around them, and they too will be subjected to real consequences.

Maybe then we can get more than three steps away from Bull Connor, firehoses, and attack dogs.

posted by Hugh Janus at 01:18 PM on August 02

But screaming for his head because he got drunk and said something stupid in anger is a gross overreaction

Fact is that his comments have turned teammates against him. His presence in the locker room will be negative. The Eagles will need to devote time to his individual situation and the situation created by his presence.

Is it worth it?

Or does it make more sense to give another player the opportunity?

In business an employee whose presence causes a major disruption in the work environment becomes an ex-employee very quickly. It's proactive, and it's the best for both parties.

posted by cixelsyd at 01:22 PM on August 02

I think you have a good point, in amongst the false equivalencies.

I posed the question Where is the line drawn then?

The examples were not meant to be equivalencies. It was intended to be a moving target, showing bigoted positions of varying degrees, and it was presented as such. Thank you for the backhanded vote of confidence, though.

posted by tahoemoj at 01:25 PM on August 02

Sorry, I was confused by the question that came right before that one:

That zero-tolerance approach would set a pretty dangerous precedent, wouldn't it?

It led me to believe that the examples were tied to that approach, meant to underline why Cooper should probably not be released. I see that I misunderstood, and I apologize for my mistake.

posted by Hugh Janus at 01:35 PM on August 02

Not to worry. I guess the phrasing would have been better as:

If you're going to employ a zero-tolerance approach for bigoted speach, at what point is speech considered bigoted?

posted by tahoemoj at 01:38 PM on August 02

Any who are disposed to make untoward comments that will be publicly aired should be required to write 100 times upon the blackboard the following:

"ENGAGE BRAIN BEFORE PUTTING MOUTH IN MOTION!"

posted by Howard_T at 01:45 PM on August 02

Like a lot of ___ism, it has to do with power dynamics, so something like the N-word or homophobic slurs, words targeting minorities, sexist ranting (though I'm not sure how to class stuff like "bitch" when used among male players -- it is certainly reinforcing a sexist state of affairs when men's go-to insult against other men is to in essence call them women -- but it also trips around class, race and sociolinguistic markers in uncomfortable ways), basically if you're the guy in the proverbial driver's seat and your insult is aimed at those relegated to the back of the bus or the kitchen or the end of a rope, then it's problematic.

I could see how "cracker" could become a problem if a white guy felt truly threatened and was in a system that kept him down and silenced his attempts to be heard regarding such abuse, but that's just never the case, even in prison (which is another can of worms entirely... or maybe not). On an NFL team, it may feel like there's an even enough racial distribution that the power dynamics are also level, but that team exists within an organization, an institution, and a society that renders anti-white epithets laughably powerless.

I think the exact borders where the line is drawn would be difficult to police, but most of these cases aren't borderline at all. Certainly not in Cooper's case. What he said wasn't merely stupid, it was racist and the fact that it's as verboten as it is, the fact that it unleashes such consequences as it does, is in my mind a good thing.

It's hope for the future, ours and Cooper's alike.

posted by Hugh Janus at 02:03 PM on August 02

Is it possible for me to agree with the "glass houses" assessment yet simultaneously recoil at the false equivalency between "the N-word" and "redneck racist clowns" that such an assessment seems to posit?

Absolutely and I didn't mean to draw that equivalence but one between an ill-considered remark uttered before the brain engaged. If you want to decry Cooper's behavior, by all means, do so. But to turn him into a two-dimensional stereotype and cast him as An Other in less than a complete sentence seems pretty close to the behavior Cooper engaged in. I have no idea if either person has hate in their heart, but the insistence on Us v Them/ Black v White (for lack of a better phrase) thinking feels equivalent. I'm not asking for Socratic dialogues, but something more than bomb throwing would be nice.

posted by yerfatma at 02:33 PM on August 02

Thanks yerfatma, as you may be able to see I'm all keyed up over perceived false equivalences, likely more from people outside of Spofi than within. I should keep a little cooler head and yield the benefit of the doubt. This place is full of smart people, considered opinions, worthwhile discussion, and I would do better by not carrying into Spofi my frustration with the discourse at large.

Sorry for pushing people around. I think it was uncalled-for.

posted by Hugh Janus at 02:51 PM on August 02

So what do you propose as a solution?

There is no short-term solution that Riley Cooper could undertake that would make up for what he did. Anything he could do would be received as a calculated PR move to salvage his career.

In the long term, he can do good works while he's in the NFL and hope that the good outweighs the bad. Metta World Peace has come a long way since Malice at the Palace and is known for his mental health charity work.

As for the Eagles, it's early in camp. Chip Kelly has a lot of time to get the team past this incident.

posted by rcade at 03:16 PM on August 02

Chip Kelly has a lot of time to get the team past this incident.

It's not clear yet what role Michael Vick is going to have in the new Eagles offense, but Cooper's conduct has given him a firm measure of high ground which he has not had previously, and thus far, Vick has seized it like a leader and as a redeemed man, speaking insightfully of honesty, forthrightness, and forgiveness.

posted by beaverboard at 03:38 PM on August 02

Sorry for pushing people around. I think it was uncalled-for.

No complaints from me and I was interested in what you had to say. I might disagree with one part:

I could see how "cracker" could become a problem if a white guy felt truly threatened . . .

I've probably mentioned it before around here, but a lot of my view about race & class in this country is summed up in Patterson Hood's line from The Drive-By Truckers' "The Southern Thing": "To the fucking rich man all poor people look the same". I don't think any white male should feel oppressed by a member of a minority calling him a "cracker", but I do think those of us outside the South (and perhaps inside of it too) are more than happy to look down our noses at rednecks, shit-kickers, coon-asses, et al because it's socially acceptable to do so and because they come from Somewhere Else so we're unlikely to meet them at whatever perfectly appropriate social events we hold court at with one witty bon mot after the next.

At least that's how I think my weekends go. But I used to wind up puking near dumpsters a lot, so YMMV.

posted by yerfatma at 05:04 PM on August 02

No telling whether Cooper will ever rejoin the team, now that he's left for counseling. But regardless, the team and the league should pull all the branded merchandise with his name and number on it, because there are folks out there who are going to want to fly that flag for all the wrong reasons.

posted by beaverboard at 06:18 PM on August 02

That's a really good call, especially given how gutless Goodell has been. In fact, it's a suspiciously good call. Now I'll think of you as a closet racist like the elderly couple across the street at number 88.

posted by yerfatma at 06:20 PM on August 02

there are folks out there who are going to want to fly that flag for all the wrong reasons

Yeah. Holy shit, man--I made the mistake of looking through some of the Cooper-related social media and comment board posts that Deadspin had aggregated. I've never considered myself to be polyanna*, but some of them were completely shocking. To the cross burning demographic, the guy is a hero and a martyr all wrapped up in one.

*Sometimes I dance at the Squat n' Gobble on amateur night under that name, but societally, I consider myself to be a realist.

posted by tahoemoj at 06:31 PM on August 02

"To the fucking rich man all poor people look the same"

So true, so true.

I was training the old microscope on race relations, especially as the might play out inside an NFL football team, but definitely, the larger picture is that the aristocracy has us all over a barrel, keeping us divided on visible lines so they can pull the invisible strings easier. The French did it right, la veuve was scientific. Of course periodically the monied class reestablishes itself as aristocracy, a sign that the tree of liberty's manuring is overdue.

posted by Hugh Janus at 06:46 PM on August 02

People think "cracker" is analogous to what Cooper said, but it's more like Cajun. Since the 19th century some natives of Florida and Georgia call themselves crackers as a positive self-identification, and it isn't limited to whites. The name was so popular Florida State almost picked it as the school's mascot.

posted by rcade at 09:13 PM on August 02

In fact, it's a suspiciously good call.

The thought comes naturally. I've seen people back home walking around in Nathan B. Forrest t-shirts, so I figure anything is fair game. A Cooper jersey would be a convenient substitute for the Stars and Bars.

posted by beaverboard at 10:52 PM on August 02

Am I nuts, or is what Cooper said a line from a movie? That was the first I thought I had when I saw the story.

The second was, "That motherfucker better have three chin straps on at training camp."

posted by wfrazerjr at 10:35 AM on August 04

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