Suspension for the Eagles’ Riley Cooper would have been a punishment too far

     Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper (14) reacts in the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

    Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper (14) reacts in the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

    The Philadelphia Eagles and owner Jeffery Lurie should be applauded for punishing wide receiver Riley Cooper and condemning his behavior. Fining Cooper and putting him through personal sensitivity training is adequate. A suspension is not needed.

    Cooper is already experiencing personal and professional humiliation from the media attention following his racist rant at a Kenny Chesney concert this past June. The incident, in which Cooper yells “I will jump that fence and fight every n—— here” to an African-American security guard, was captured on video and recently released to public scrutiny.

    He showed remorse for his actions, tweeting “I owe an apology to the fans and to this community,” according to “I am so ashamed, but there are no excuses. What I did was wrong and I will accept the consequences.” Cooper later claimed to have been drinking the evening of the concert, but insisted that it was no excuse.

    Consider the actions of ex-Rutgers basketball head coach Mike Rice, who was fined, suspended and eventually fired after using racial and gay slurs towards his players. As reported by the Star Ledger and ESPN, Rice acted out on numerous occasions before the university finally decided to cut ties with him.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Since this is Cooper’s first (and hopefully last) public offense, it would be unfair to suspend him for a racial epithet that occurred a month ago. It would set a bad precedent for professional sports organizations to continuously suspend or fire players in order to vanquish the pressure from the media.

    The Eagles ownership have responded to Riley Cooper’s behavior for now, but Cooper will feel more punishment trying to stay on the field than he would if he were kept away from it.

    Besides just working hard on the practice field, Cooper must now work hard to remove a stain on his personal and professional career and, in some cases, repair his relationships with his teammates.

    When star wide receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered a season-ending torn ACL, Cooper was next in line to fill in. Cooper’s coaches and teammates trusted him to make all of the necessary adjustments and to play with the same talent that got him drafted. It was Cooper’s chance for a breakout year. Now, his transgression may keep him from becoming a star in Philadelphia.

    Cooper’s story will probably become less relevant as the season progresses, especially if the Eagles can pull together a successful year — and dare I say a Super Bowl visit — under head coach Chip Kelly. For now, whenever Cooper walks the streets of Philadelphia, he is likely to receive stares and shouts of anger, resentment and disappointment from many African-Americans.

    He will soon know what it feels like to be booed at Lincoln Financial Field on a football Sunday. He will feel what it’s like to lose the trust of Philadelphia sports fans for a while — and that’s never a good thing.

    Riley Cooper is receiving an appropriate punishment, and for a while, he will join a long list of professional athletes with the baggage of personal humiliation.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal