Riley Cooper of Philadelphia Eagles Embarrassing Example of NFL Double Standard

Stephen Sonneveld@@S_SonneveldCorrespondent IIIAugust 5, 2013

Riley Cooper issues his mea culpa.
Riley Cooper issues his mea culpa.Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Last Wednesday, Riley Cooper, a wide receiver for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, profusely apologized after a video of him using the n-word at a concert went viral.

Cooper issued a statement saying he was “ashamed and disgusted” for blurting out, “I will fight every [n-word] here,” at a Kenny Chesney concert this past June.

While Coach Chip Kelly made it clear that the embattled player would not be cut (although an NFL.com article written by Marc Sessler implied this might just be because the team is light on receivers), Cooper and the club agreed he would excuse himself from the team while seeking counseling. The receiver was also fined.

Due to a collective bargaining agreement holding that players cannot be punished twice for the same offense, the club's swift response ensures Cooper will not face further penalties from the league on this matter.

Though punishment was quickly meted, NFL officials still voiced their moral outrage over the fact one of their athletes used a racial slur.

Coach Kelly told reporters he was “appalled.”

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie expressed, via a statement, “We are shocked and appalled by Riley Cooper's words...This sort of behavior or attitude from anyone has no role in a civil society.”

Darren Sharper, a 15-year league veteran, said the following on the NFL Network: "I'm disgusted and appalled. I couldn't play with a guy like that.”

The Morning Call reported that “[NFL commissioner Roger] Goodell stressed that the NFL stands for 'diversity and inclusion.'"

Which begs the question, if the NFL is so appalled by this racially insensitive word, behavior and attitude, then how can anyone in the league condone the continued use of the pejorative term “red skin” as a team name?

The NFL and Washington team owner Daniel Snyder has been told time and again that “redskins” is racist, yet continue to embarrass themselves by stubbornly clinging to it. Some highlights: 

  • 1992: Susan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne-Hodulgee Muscogee, and other plaintiffs filed suit to have the Redskins trademarks invalidated, on the basis that U.S. trademark laws prohibit registration of a disparaging name. NPR reported, “She initially won when the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed that the name could be offensive to American Indians.”
  • When defendant Football, Inc. appealed the decision, according to the NPR report, the plaintiffs' “appeal was supported by more than 30 law professors, 13 psychology professors who are experts on stereotypes and discrimination, and the Social Justice Advocacy Group, a coalition of nonprofit and religious organizations.”
  • August 11, 2006: A group mostly comprised of accomplished Native American students once again calls for Washington's trademarks to be canceled in Blackhorse et al. v. Football, Inc. on the following basis:
“REDSKIN" or an abbreviation of that term appears in each of the above identified registered marks. The term "REDSKIN" was and is a pejorative, derogatory, denigrating, offensive, scandalous, contemptuous, disreputable, disparaging, and racist designation for a Native American person... The Registrant’s use of [Redskins trademarks] offends Petitioners, and other Native Americans, causing them to be damaged by the continued registration of the marks.
  • February 7, 2013: NPR reported the following: “The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian held a day-long academic symposium on “racist” stereotypes in American sports.” NPR cited an accompanying editorial in the The Washington Post by Robert McCartney: “It's the worst racial slur used as a team name in American sports,” McCartney wrote. “Dictionaries have labeled the word as 'often offensive' at least since the 1970s.”
  • May 28, 2013: Ten members of Congress, including the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, sent a letter to NFL officials urging them to change the name on the basis that is it is not only hateful language, but for the Penobscot nation, also a “reminder of one of the most gruesome acts of . . . ethnic cleansing ever committed against” them.
  • Commissioner Goodell responded with a letter dated June 5 insisting that Native Americans recognize the “positive meaning” of the term. Included were remarks from one such alleged native, Steven Dodson, whose claims of being an Alaskan tribal chief were later revealed to be a hoax, but not before he appeared on the May 3 broadcast of the Snyder-produced Redskins Nation. Deadspin transcribed a portion of the unbelievable interview: 

It's actually a term of endearment that we would refer to each other as. When we were on the reservation, we'd call each other, "Hey, what's up, redskin?" We'd nickname it and call each other "Skins." We respected each other with that term...It's not degrading in one bit.

In sum, despite the fact that students, journalists, school boards which no longer employ the term, the Smithsonian, Congress andunlike Steven Dodsonactual Native Americans have made it clear to the NFL that the r-word is utterly and unequivocally racist, the NFL, Goodell and Snyder not only continue to deny that it is, but audaciously suggest it is a tribute.

Yet by their own NFL standards, as displayed in the “appalling” Cooper case, due to continued usage of a word the offended group has deemed is racist, Goodell and Snyder should be fined, excused from their duties and made to attend sensitivity training.

It would be hypocritical not to.

This sort of behavior or attitude from anyone has no role in a civil society, yet it is woven into the fabric of the NFL.

The unfathomable ignorance and disrespect that the NFL continues to display toward Native Americans simply has to stop.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.