Riley Cooper: An Example of What Not to Do

Posted on Aug 7 2013 - 5:30pm by Isaac Chipps
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eagles-cooper-footballWith preseason football underway and less then a month before the NFL football season begins, we need something GOOD to talk about. We all get tired of watching hours on hours of “preview coverage” of each team’s training camp, so every media outlet is looking for a compelling story to bring to their viewers while we sit on our coaches and wait for some football.

Unfortunately for Riley Cooper, a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, he handed every TV station and newspaper across the country a great story on a silver platter last week.

Cooper attended a Kenny Chesney concert a few weeks ago and apparently was expecting to be able to go back stage.

With what was most likely more than a few beers in his system, Cooper was denied access backstage and wasn’t very happy about it. He made his feelings known, using the “N-Word” to express his unhappiness. Unbeknownst to Cooper, someone had videotaped (via Deadspin) the incident and sold the rights of the video to, a Philadelphia sports blog.

Instantaneously, Cooper became the topic of conversation everywhere from the dinner table to the Twitter-sphere for all the wrong reasons.

Riley Cooper has been the talk of the NFL over the last week for all the wrong reasons.

Riley Cooper has been the talk of the NFL over the last week for all the wrong reasons.

Cooper was fined by the Eagles and excused from all team activities in order to complete racial sensitivity training in response to the outrage from fans, teammates, and NFL executives across the league.

Here’s his apology:

Cooper is back with the Eagles now and is looking to put this behind him as he prepares for the upcoming season. But Cooper’s racial slur brings up a bigger issue that still clouds itself over sports: does racism still exist in professional sports?

If his fellow teammate, Michael Vick, was able to regain the trust and support of his teammates, it seems like Riley Cooper deserves the same chance.

If his fellow teammate, Michael Vick, was able to regain the trust and support of his teammates, it seems like Riley Cooper deserves the same chance.

Let me first begin by saying that I don’t believe Riley Cooper is a racist, and I believe he’s entitled to an opportunity to redeem himself like the athletes before him who have made headlines for off-field incidents. If the public is willing forgive Michael Vick for dogfighting, or Ray Lewis for his involvement in a murder trial, it seems fair that Cooper deserves the same.

In Cooper’s case, this is a perfect example of how every decision and choice high-profile celebrities make is documented and told through social media and the Internet. By most standards, Cooper wasn’t even a high-profile celebrity; most fans alike had never heard of him before his video went viral. But even a mediocre NFL player can get caught up in the nonstop world of social media where everyone’s our worst enemy.

Former Head Coach of the Orlando Magic Stan Van Gundy said an interview with Open Mike radio show that he believes “racism is making a resurgence.

The always outspoken Van Gundy may be a little far-fetched with that statement, but he’s not wrong to say that racism has been completely eradicated in sports. Cooper’s video comes to show that there will always be racial tensions regardless of how progressive our society has become.

What I’ve come to learn over the years is that you can’t change someone’s nature, where they’re from, and how they view the world. In professional sports, teams have athletes from all over the country and the world. An athlete from Alabama and an athlete from New York will most likely have far different views on subjects not related to football. However, that shouldn’t be the reason tensions are built inside a locker room.

American sports have come a long way since Jackie Robinson’s inception into baseball and Title IX. If sports are supposed to mirror society, I would say that’s exactly what the “signs” read. Today, minorities dominate professional sports, a trend that looks to skyrocket over the next generation.

With one word, Riley Cooper lost the respect of some of his teammates, embarrassed his family, and worst of all, tarnished his name. However, this could be a great opportunity for young people and aspiring athletes to see how drastically one’s career can be altered from poor decisions.

Cooper’s journey to regain his good standing with his teammates, fans, and his conscious will be long and strenuous. Winning back the trust of all that befriended him and called him a teammate is something that may be best done with his play on the football field. For Cooper’s sake, I hope he gets a second chance to prove he’s a good guy who just made a very bad mistake.

Like those before him who have attempted to move past their poor decisions, the best way Cooper can separate himself from his past is to make headlines for playing football, not acting like an idiot at a Kenny Chesney concert.

Luckily for Cooper, he plays in the City of Brotherly Love. I’m willing to bet if Cooper and the Eagles play well this season, there may just be some love left for him too.

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