Philadelphia was embroiled in a media firestorm on Wednesday as video surfaced of Eagles wide-receiver Riley Cooper dropping the N-bomb at a Kenny Chesney concert. Cooper has already been fined by the Eagles for the comment and has already held a press conference apologizing profusely for the racial slur. On top of that, his teammates, such as Michael Vick, have publicly accepted his apology and seem to be showing, at least on the surface, an air of solidarity with their teammate.
But, let’s get to the incident at hand, shall we? Because, quite frankly, it is both funny and extremely sad. It plays on the worst stereotypes we have of good ol’ boys and attendees of country music concerts. In one fleeting instance, you can see how easy and casual racist statements are able to flow from someone’s mouth. And, on top of all of that, in this age of all-encompassing media coverage, how anything you say or do can be caught on camera and come back to haunt you.
Apparently, a number of Eagles players, and new head coach Chip Kelly, were invited to the concert and allowed to take the stage with Chesney as the concert was held at the Eagles home stadium, Lincoln Financial Field. Cooper had arrived early to the stadium parking lot to do some tailgating. And by early, I mean 11 AM. The concert start time was 8 PM. Needless to say, Cooper and some buddies tossed back a few (dozen?) adult beverages while hanging by his pickup truck (which, of course, has truck nuts.)
As the start time approached, Cooper headed towards the backstage gate. Sadly for him, while some of the other players had backstage passes, he did not. Well, Cooper felt he should still be allowed backstage, because he’s a famous Eagle wide-receiver after all. The security guy didn’t see it that way and refused him entrance. Cooper continued to try to big-league and namedrop his way in, but to no avail. Finally, he made a bit of a scene and was sent away. Needless to say, as the story is about a racial slur, the bouncer was a black man.
Well, Cooper was still able to attend the concert and be up near the stage, even if he couldn’t hang out with Chesney and the band beforehand. Well, this didn’t sit too well with the humiliated, inebriated Philly receiver. While someone was filming an enraged Cooper, he stated, “I will fight every n_gger here, bro!” And, to reinforce the racist, redneck stereotype he was going for that day, Cooper was wearing a sleeveless, plaid work shirt with his long hair loosely pulled back in a ponytail.
This story blew up yesterday due to the coverage Deadspin gave it. They linked to Crossing Broad, a Philadelphia sports blog, where the video had first appeared. There was no way that Cooper could deny that he said it, and this occurred at a public event where numerous people saw him. The only thing for him to do was immediately apologize for his actions and ask for forgiveness. And, playing in a sport where roughly 70% of the players are black, it is going to be pretty rough.
While his teammates have publicly supported him and accepted his apology, privately, you have to feel that there is a lot of animosity in that locker room towards him. Cooper is supposed to be the #2 receiver on the team now, as Jeremy Maclin is out for the year with an ACL injury. How well will they support him on the field with these comments in their mind? And, is he going to be targeted by defenders who are angered by his casually using the word in a malicious way? Does he have to worry about getting severely injured on the field? These are all legitimate questions, and ones we may not get easy answers to.