Thursday, August 1, 2013

Something good from the Riley Cooper saga?

I have been searching for something good to say about the ugly scenario that unfolded yesterday afternoon involving Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper.

It's not easy.

To review, Cooper, who is now in line to be a starting wideout for Chip Kelly's Eagles now that Jeremy Maclin has gone down for the year with a knee injury, was caught on camera using the one word that you simply cannot use.

The N-Word. The most divisive, ugly, racial expletive in our vocabulary.

The story exploded after the video was first posted on the local Crossing Broad sports blog.

The video depicts Cooper in an angry confrontation with an unseen African-American security guard. It was taken on a cell phone from a Kenny Chesney concert at the Linc back in June.

I was struck by a couple of things in the video. First and foremost, this was not a casual reference. It wasn't dropped by mistake, or in music lyrics, or even in jest.

This was an angry white man, using it to target and belittle a black man.

After the story exploded, Cooper was correctly apologetic, talking about his shame and embarrassment. He met the media and fell on his sword. He was fined by the team.

It reminds me of a couple of things. One, as I'm reminded of almost every day, is just how much of our lives is now being captured by video. Surveillance cameras are everywhere. But even more prying are the ubiquitous smart phones that we use every day.

Second, it reminds me of just how far this country still needs to go when it comes to race. Don't believe me? Just wallow into the comments posted with many of the stories on every day. Or listen to the multitude of white folks who simply can't seem to grasp the history of hurt this one word contains. And who are blind to the fact that a black person uttering this word is entirely different from a white person who does the same. It just is.

And save me the horrors of a black person referring to a white person as a "cracker" or something else. Again the history, what African-Americans in this country have endured, is just not the same. I'm not surprised that so many people don't understand this, considering the way so many of them reacted to President Obama's comments on race in the wake of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

So what about that good to come out of this story? I did find something. And, once again, in a place I did not expect it.

If there is one person who likely knew how Riley Cooper felt when he stepped in front of those microphones yesterday, it was Michael Vick, albeit for an entirely different reason.

Vick was even more reviled than Cooper when he arrived in Philadelphia fresh off a two-year stint in federal prison for running a dog-fighting operation.

Michael Vick also is black.

I was once again impressed at the way Vick reacted last night, sounding a note of forgiveness, of the team coming together, supporting Riley and moving forward.

The same thing was mentioned by several other African-American members of the team.

Granted, these are all millionaires who have a vested interest in the team and what they do on the field, not necessarily off it.

But I'm not sure we all couldn't take a lesson in how they reacted.

If not for the ugly initial comments made by Cooper that struck an old nerve, but one that is just as raw as ever.



Anonymous Lynn McKeown said...

I love that you found something good in a bad story, Phil Heron! Forgiveness is always something good - thanks for searching (and finding) a positive note for us.

August 1, 2013 at 8:03 AM 
Anonymous said...

Excellent editorial, Phil. It reminds me of the oft-cited idea that WE are the ones that determine how we react to outside influences. We can choose to make more of it, or we can choose to diffuse the explosive situation. The black players have chosen the high road on this, in the interest of team cohesiveness. I know I'm taking great license with this, but it reminds me of a comment a Facebook friend wrote about the Zimmerman-Martin tragedy: "What if George had just offered Travyon a ride home?" I dream of such a world.

August 1, 2013 at 8:12 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Riley Cooper and his use of the N-word dominated the first 10 minutes of the 30 minute long 11pm news last night. Are you freeking kidding me? The story even trumped a few shootings in the area. This is News? Sports figures are held up to us by the media as gods, role models, etc... They are overpaid athletes who, without those talents would most likely be just another stain on society. His actions were no more newsworthy than my latest bowel movement and the fact that the public just eats it up and hangs on every word only helps to advance the agendas of race baiters such as Sharpton & Jackson. We need to demand better from our so-called journalists and stop accepting what is placed before us as news. Wake Up America! We are circling the drain.

August 1, 2013 at 10:05 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW!!! It is amazing that a football player can getaway with saying that dreaded N-Word with just a slap on the wrist and a fine. And he did it in the present and was drunk at a concert.... but that's ok. Oh and let's not forget he is MALE... Yet Paula Deen admitted to saying the same word 20 YEARS AGO and she is striped of all her shows, book deals, all endorsement, etc.. seems just a little unfair dont you think..

August 1, 2013 at 2:25 PM 

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