As much as the Eagles would love to focus on something else, the Riley Cooper situation has yet to blow over. In the most recent episode of events, Cooper announced that he would “step away for a period of time.” He has been excused from all team activities as he receives counseling. As far as the media can tell, though, Cooper doesn’t really need counseling. He doesn’t have any disorders and simply made a terrible decision in the heat of a moment.
Any sort of sensitivity training is unlikely to change Cooper’s outlook and even less likely to change his teammates’ opinions of him. If anything, counseling is only a P.R. ploy by the Eagles in an attempt to appear proactive. Realistically, though, neither Cooper nor the Eagles can put the toothpaste back in the tube.
Cooper’s withdrawal from the team definitely muddies his future with the organization. On Twitter, CBS Sports’ Mike Freeman speculated that Cooper’s NFL career is over: “[I] continue to hear Eagles want to cut Riley Cooper. Not set in stone by any means. But I’m not sure if Cooper will play another down in NFL.”
From a football standpoint, the injury to Jeremy Maclin makes the pill of releasing Cooper tougher to swallow. In that case, the injured Arrelious Benn or unproven Ifeanyi Momah would be thrust permanently into a starting outside receiver role. Opposing defenses won’t respect either one in the slightest.
From a moral perspective, many fans are outraged that NFL players who abuse drugs, commit crimes, and even kill animals or other humans (Donte Stallworth) usually get second chances, but Cooper’s career may be doomed after uttering a single word. To be clear, Cooper isn’t facing any league-imposed suspension. Freeman’s implication that Cooper is toast in the NFL stems from the perception that no locker room in the black-dominated NFL would accept or want to play with him. If Cooper were a Pro Bowl caliber player, his talent would cause GMs to overlook his trespass, but a backup simply isn’t worth the trouble. NFL players brush off DUIs, domestic assaults, and other petty arrests as simple missteps all the time, but they interpret racial comments as a direct assault on them. Therefore, black players will have a very tough time coexisting with Cooper, and the chances that he gets cut are becoming increasingly real.
Below is Cooper’s full statement:
“The last few days have been incredibly difficult for me. My actions were inexcusable. The more I think about what I did, the more disgusted I get. I keep trying to figure out how I could have said something so repulsive, and what I can do to make things better.
Right now, I think it’s important for me to take some time to reflect on this situation. The organization and my teammates have been extremely supportive, but I also realize that there are people who will have a tough time forgiving me for what I’ve done. The best thing for me, and for the team, is to step away for a period of time.
During this time I’m going to be speaking with a variety of professionals to help me better understand how I could have done something that was so offensive, and how I can start the healing process for everyone. As long as it takes, and whatever I have to do, I’m going to try to make this right.”