By Alan Truex
To the surprise of many, it appears Riley Cooper will be on the Philadelphia Eagles’ 53-man roster despite causing the most disturbing distraction of the NFL preseason. If there’s one thing a coach can’t stand it’s controversy that infects the media and makes the entire team nervous. Riley did just that, being recorded on cell-phone video and audio shouting “Nigger” at a Kenny Chesney concert.
Needless to say, some of his African-American teammates were not happy, and Chesney felt compelled to reassure the public that his fans are not a bunch of racist rednecks.
With his drunken eruption Cooper drew the spotlight away from his coach, Chip Kelly and his Star Trek offense, as the team tries to hold its season-ticket base in the wake of a 4-12 season. It was assumed Kelly soon would dispense of the pebble in his shoe. Cooper, after all, is the stereotypical slow white wide receiver.
But with the swift and black Jeremy Maclin out for the year, Cooper is the best they got at No. 2 WR. So we need to all get along.
Since he’s made every effort to apologize for his misbehavior, conferring one on one with every teammate, all are ready to accept Cooper’s explanation that he was drunk and angry and those were not his true feelings.
Yes they were, retorted Jason Whitlock, a black columnist who recently left Fox Sports to return to ESPN. “Like all of us,” Whitlock blogged for Fox, “Riley Cooper is biased. He needs to admit that to himself so he can adequately combat his biases and be a force for positive change.”
Whitlock has had his own battle with racial stereotyping. A couple of years ago he offended Chinese-Americans with his twitter after Jeremy Lin scored 38 in one game: “Some lucky lady in New York City is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.”
But crude as he may be, Whitlock at least is candid about his biases. He admits that in a roomful of black people he might say something he would not want relayed to the general public. His point is we all have done things like this. He argues that anyone who claims to be free of racial bias is “dishonest or disillusional.”
So Riley and Jason have provided America with another teachable moment. Who would have thought it would come to this? Riley Cooper, trying but denying, a metaphor for us all.