Make Eagles WR Riley Cooper face punishing truth
Making Riley Cooper available to talk about the racial slur he used will teach him more than a suspension ever would.
THE EAGLES should not punish Riley Cooper any further. They fined him, and that's enough. Let us begin there.
The ignorance of the man is breathtaking. He has offended most anybody with a brain, which includes most of the people who buy tickets to Eagles games and watch the team on television. The video of him using the n-word at a Kenny Chesney concert is plain, and plainly disturbing.
But punishment? Suspend him? No. In a way, that would be too much about public relations and a little too simple. It would give Cooper a chance at easy closure, and that is something he does not deserve.
The club's job at this point is twofold. First, it is to condemn what Cooper said as clearly as it possibly can, to denounce what he said and state its unequivocal disappointment with its employee. Owner Jeffrey Lurie made this attempt:
"We are shocked and appalled by Riley Cooper's words. This sort of behavior or attitude from anyone has no role in a civil society. He has accepted responsibility for his words and his actions. He has been fined for this incident.''
They have spoken. Cooper has spoken. Now, the Eagles should shine the brightest light on him that they possibly can. That is how they should deal with Riley Cooper from here.
They should demand that he take any and all interview requests until further notice. They should force him to be available after every practice, after every game, for every minute that the locker room is open to reporters. He should be required to do phone interviews with every national reporter who asks, and every one who rolls into camp. The public relations department should not request, when the network announcers come in for games, that they avoid the subject.
In addition, Cooper should be scheduled for as many community forums in predominantly black schools as his contract permits - with no media permitted to attend. This should not be an image-rehabilitation tour; see Vick, Michael. The club should not cover for Cooper or protect him in any way. Not for a second.
Meanwhile, within the team, the players themselves will decide if Cooper is a person worth forgiving. None of us has any idea how that might go. The likelihood is that there will be players who will never forgive him, and others who will tolerate him, and others who will work to bridge the enormous gaps that he has created. That is just human nature.
To use this as a test of Chip Kelly's leadership, to me, is a stretch. The coach should join the club's condemnation, and he should do it forcefully, and then he should trust his players. Ultimately, they are in the best position to know Riley Cooper (even while acknowledging that they probably thought they already knew him before Wednesday afternoon).
But if anybody has a chance, they're the ones. You and I have the perfect right to want to have nothing to do with him ever again. But we all witness his life from a distance. That videotape is disgustingly clear, and it will be all that a lot of people need to know about Cooper. Still, it can never be the same as what his teammates will see and know.
Teammates. The black players in the Eagles' dressing room have dealt with this kind of thing their whole lives, and now they will deal with Riley Cooper. My guess is that he will earn back their trust or he won't be working here next year.
Because here is what he will find out (if he doesn't already know): They are not fools and they are not fool-able.