Sometimes in life, humans make decisions to prove to everyone that they are in fact human. There are times when individuals make calculated errors, irresponsible decisions, or just flat out silly mistakes that reveal to the entire world that they are actually flawed. Well as most of you have probably read or seen on TV, Riley Cooper-a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles-has done just that. He has shown everyone that he truly is a human being.
A video of Cooper using a racial slur went viral on Wednesday, which quickly sent the media into a frenzy. In the video Cooper is shown holding a beer in his hand, enjoying a Kenny Chesney concert, while having a conversation with a security personnel. Cooper, in what appears to be a heated conversation, tells the guard that he will jump a fence and “fight every n----- here”. For what reason Cooper said this, only he and the people involved know, but I would argue that the beer he is holding in his hand wasn’t the first he enjoyed that evening.
Whether or not alcohol had any role in the incident or not truly doesn’t have that much significance, because the truth of the situation is that Cooper used a racial slur; and he now has to face the consequences of his actions. This is the part where everyone begins to wonder, what is going to happen now? What is the fair thing to do? What should the consequences be? Should the Eagles punish him? Should the NFL fine him? Should he be suspended? Should he be cut from the organization? How are the players, especially those who aren’t white, going to handle being around Cooper? Will Cooper’s actions mess up the fellowship amongst the teammates?
As of now the Eagles have fined him an unknown amount for using the N-word, and have no intentions of releasing him. With the loss of Jeremy Maclin this season, due to a torn ACL, it’s hard to believe the team would be willing to give up another receiver over anything. Good news for Cooper right? Nope. “Former” friend LeSean McCoy, running back for the Eagles, has already commented on the matter by telling reporters that he has lost a great deal of respect for the man. In short, McCoy told reporters Thursday that essentially they will always be teammates, but their friendship is over. From an NFL standpoint, Roger Goodell has already informed the media that the NFL will not enforce consequences on a player if their punishment has already been handled within their given team.
The only amount of punishment left for Cooper, at this point, will be the conflict that comes from his teammates or other players in the league. Going into this season, Cooper can expect a lot defensive players looking for a way to hit him with a cheap shot. While he has moved forward, apologizing for his mistake, his teammates, and others around the league will have not forgotten. Already a few friends lost, and surely more to come, at this point Cooper must do everything he can to salvage what friends he does have left on the team. If at any point during the season, especially over these next few weeks preparing for week 1, if players feel as if this situation is disrupting team growth and team unity, then something else should be done. But what else can be done and why would something else need to be done?
In my opinion, I believe the Eagles can move past this, but I also believe some players might not fully be able to. This has already caused a great deal of tension within the locker room, and it is not going away anytime soon. As tensions grow in and outside of the locker room, at some point the coaches will have to make a drastic decision in order to bring back unity to a team. As you look throughout sports history, all championship winning teams had something in common: they believed that they had what it took to win a championship. Every player on that team has to believe it in order to be a championship caliber team. The moments that distract players away from their goals and ambitions for the season are issues like this of Riley Cooper. Moments like this can tear apart an entire team if no one rises to the challenge of handling the issue properly. I’m not saying the Eagles have not done so, but I’m also not saying they have. The challenge the Eagles face now is staying focused on this season while maintaining peace in the locker room, even if the greatest factor fighting against that hope is apart of that very locker room.