I DON'T KNOW Eagles receiver Riley Cooper, so I certainly don't know him well enough to judge whether his apology for using a racial slur was from his heart or from his head.
What I have learned, however, is that it is usually best to let emotion and shock value wear down a bit before drawing any true opinion on what an incident may or may not truly mean.
"I am so ashamed and disgusted with myself," Cooper tweeted after a video of him using the "N-word" went viral yesterday after being released by crossingbroad.com. "I want to apologize. I have been offensive. I have apologized to my coach, to Jeffrey Lurie, to 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."
Cooper acknowledged after practice that the video was of a confrontation he had with an African-American security guard, who is out of view, after a Kenny Chesney concert in June at Lincoln Financial Field.
Needless to say, he's got a bit of explaining to do to his teammates, the majority of whom are black.
"It's going to be very difficult for me," Cooper said. "I'm going to tell them exactly what I'm telling you guys. There was a confrontation I handled extremely poorly . . . I said something that is absolutely disgusting and terrible.
"That's not the type of person I am. I wasn't raised that way. I've got a great mom and dad at home [in Clearwater, Fla.] They're extremely, extremely disappointed in me."
Personally, as a member of the community to whom Cooper said he wanted to apologize, that's enough for me. I've seen enough of these situations to realize that it is rarely as simple as a person being racist by virtue of having uttered a racial slur - particularly when it comes while a person is in a highly agitated state, as the video clearly shows Cooper was.
Many of us have said things out of our normal character when we are angry at another person. Of course, I'm not speaking for anyone else. Each person has the right to judge Cooper in the manner they see fit.
"What I did was wrong and I will accept the consequences," Cooper said.
Those consequences already include a fine from the Eagles. If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decides a suspension is warranted, Cooper will have to accept that, too.
Cooper was asked if he thought it would be best if he continued his career somewhere other than Philadelphia?
I'd say only if he can't catch the football.
Not to bring quarterback Michael Vick unfairly into this, but he did serve nearly 2 years in prison for a crime that involved the killing of dogs. The second chance he received put the Eagles farther out on a limb than one that Cooper will be given.
To be honest, what I find more disturbing is some of the reactions I've seen on the Internet from people suggesting how Cooper will be dealt with by black opponents.
Cooper plays a high-collision sport in which the majority of the participants are African-American. I've seen way too many quips alluding to Cooper having set himself up as a target for some retaliatory light-ups from offended black defensive players.
I find that assumption offensive. It's worse than what Cooper actually said because it feeds into one of the ugliest and more damaging stereotypes there are concerning African-American men. It's even worse that many of the people perpetuating that stereotype in this case are African-Americans.
The notion that Cooper will be targeted for payback suggests that black players cannot be professional enough or disciplined enough to deal with any angst they may feel in any other way than with over-the-top intentional violence.
I understand where the sentiment comes from. I believe much of it is hyperbole said with tongue in cheek. Still, even if meant to be lighthearted, it feeds into a pervasive belief that black men only know how to deal with conflict through violence.
On the street, it's with a gun. On a football field, it will be with a borderline illegal hit specifically designed to cause excessive pain and possible injury.
If a black player were to intentionally deliver an unnecessarily violent hit on Cooper to teach him a lesson, I'd hope that he would be fined and immediately suspended.
We're better than that.
A more pressing concern is that a black player may lay a perfectly legal hit on Cooper, yet he still gets penalized because all this speculation about what's going to be done has profiled him as reacting that way.