When a White male speaks the “N-word,” several emotions often follow—whether it’s anger, frustration or insult, the word runs deep through the Black community.
So when Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper was captured on video in late July spouting the word while drunk at a Kenny Chesney concert (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv1b1FV9T0g), the same feelings were likely be felt by the Black players who make up 65 percent of the NFL. Cooper, who appeared to use the word while making a general statement, has apologized and even hurled insults at himself for using the slur, and said he will seek treatment for his issues. Cooper has been excused from all team activities as he seeks “counseling” for poor choice of words, but will Cooper’s dismissal from the NFL be permanent? Stephen D. Riley and Perry Green of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: It’s hard to imagine that Cooper will find another spot in the NFL. Professional sports teams are the ultimate marketing companies, and putting a player on the field with that type of situation attached to him is pretty tough. Cooper’s words obviously hit home with many African-American fans of the NFL and of course his own teammates. The issue is maybe not so much with the word itself, but how he said it, which regurgitated a lot of the feelings that comes with the term. I can’t see how another team would sign him when most teams are predominantly comprised of Black players. We’ve seen the last of Riley Cooper.
Green: Agreeing with you just doesn't feel right, Riley, but I have to concur. Cooper is now a marked man in the NFL; and no matter what he does to try to correct the mistake, the NFL is always going to have a number of players who won’t forgive him. Other teams may try to put the “hit” out on him and refuse to sign him, and how could an owner or general manager expect a predominantly Black team to accept him? Cooper just ruined his future in the NFL.
Riley: It might be unfair for fans, critics and the NFL to crack down on Cooper for being caught using a word I'm sure several Caucasian NFL players use on a daily or weekly basis. Using Cooper as the poster boy is totally unfair, but he still said it. It’s not about the phrasing or the situation, it’s about the fact that Cooper won’t be able to be around players without someone thinking about what he said. It’s unfortunate that a second chance would be next to impossible for the young wideout, but it’s a situation he put himself in. With so many African Americans playing the sport, how could he ever regain their respect?
Green: He won’t, and that’s obvious. If he or anyone else thinks that he’ll be accepted into another locker room, they’re fooling themselves. Football and basketball represent the two most popular sports amongst African Americans and Cooper just shot himself in the foot. Any general manager who signs him will only paint themselves as feeling sympathetic to Cooper. I’m sure he was intoxicated and probably let a few rounds of drinks get the best of him. The problem is that an owner won’t be able sign him without being questioned about his own racial bias. Because no owner is going to risk their public image over a third-string wide receiver, the NFL door is closed for Cooper.