Berry Tramel

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Emails in on Riley Cooper

by Berry Tramel Published: August 5, 2013

I wrote about the Riley Cooper scandal for the Monday Oklahoman. You can read that column (which first appeared as a blog) here.

But no surprise, I received a load of interesting emails on the subject, so I thought I would share them.

Nick: “You know beside the first amendment. You the part that says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. What in the world have we let the government do. Make a law call free speech hate speech what a crock!!!!!!”

I typically clean up the punctuation of the emails I post. However, I couldn’t follow this well enough to know how to clean it up. I’ll only say this: The government hasn’t done anything in the Riley Cooper situation. In fact, it’s the ultimate example of the market economy. The Eagles are making a business decision.

Mitch: “Based on America in 2013, you are most likely correct about this. Now if only some blacks will stop using the word! It’s a two-way street. You want respect, give it. To criminalize a word in a free society where free speech is at the bedrock of the founding fathers ideology is a serious matter not to be handled lightly. Surely the same banishment for every black who utters a racial slur would be unwarranted. Some may feel good about the current climate on speech, but do you think the list will stop here? Who will decide what words we cannot say and how will this be accomplished? How many words will be listed? What is the criteria? Make no mistake, the word is not nice and should be avoided at all costs. But brother, take a look at what’s going on in this country and I assure you it is moving further away from the ideas of Madison and Washington, et al. But a society that values athletes and entertainers to the level we do is on its way down. Why study the constitution at all? How many kids on the OKC public schools are well versed on American history, mathematics, grammar and science? Try very few. I do not know about you, but the future is very cloudy. The Romans had a phrase for it: Bread and Circus.”

I think Mitch is overthinking this thing. Some receiver said a word that turned off most of his teammates and made the locker room an uncomfortable place. Therefore, he’s gone. It’s not the least bit complicated.

Gary: “I “’YouTubed’ the Riley Cooper self-destruct, using the N word and it came out so easily. It did not seem a seldom used utterance. I thought where and how was he brought up; who is he around where words like that are commonly used? Hate filled words referencing African Americans, homosexuals, Latinos or even whites should not be tolerated anywhere: Home, work or school. All should be held equally accountable for using any pejorative, hate filled words or terms. Which leads me to wonder, how often has Cooper heard the N word used in the locker room? I know the history behind the N word, especially coming from the lips of a white man. But many hear the N word used frequently by Rappers and even used by African Americans as a term of comradeship to other blacks, only it ends with ‘ah’ instead of ‘ar.’ I wonder how the coach will react when he is walking through the locker room today or tomorrow and hears the N word tossed around among the African American players?”

I would bet the word is used a lot less in every NFL locker room, since the Riley Cooper scandal. In fact, there’s something good that came from Cooper.

Kevin: “I work for Riley’s uncle and for his grandfather when he was alive. I have met Riley on a couple of occasions and have never heard him say anything ‘racist.’ I know what he said was wrong, but if a word is wrong for him to say, then it is wrong for all to say (black or white).”

I agree. But again, this wasn’t a moral situation. It’s a business situation. There are places you can get by with saying a word like that. Or at least receive some level of forgiveness. But this is strictly a business decision. The production Riley could provide is trumped by the turmoil his presence would cause.”

David: “In 2007, Michael Vick’s direct involvement in dog fighting, and brutal executions of dogs. Public outcry resulted from widespread news media publicity of the details which included hanging, drowning, electrocuting and shooting dogs. So in your world, uttering the magic word is a much more terrible offense than this?  Because the last time I checked, Michael Vick was still playing for the Eagles.  Don’t recall you writing a column calling for Vick to be banished.  As a matter of fact, I would be willing to bet that you probably wrote a column saying Vick deserved a second chance. How about Kobe Bryant?  In a game against San Antonio, Kobe Bryant called the referee “(homosexual slur).” So if any of Kobe’s teammates are gay, then it’s bye bye Kobe? When are you planning to write your column saying that Kobe cannot be allowed to play in the NBA? You, and all the rest of the uber sensitive just need to get over it.  The man apologized, just the same way that Vick and Bryant apologized.”

Please read more closely. I did not say anything was better or worse. I just pointed out what’s got no chance of surviving an NFL locker room. No one is banishing Riley Cooper. The Eagles just decided they were better off without him.

More from David: “In 1947, several Brooklyn Dodgers players said they would not play with Jackie Robinson.  Branch Rickey solved that problem by trading those players.  Last time I checked, the players do not own the Eagles. Riley Cooper made a mistake.  Riley Cooper apologized for that mistake.  Riley Cooper has a right to earn a living.  Almost every workplace in America contains some African Americans.  What do you want, Riley Cooper never working again anywhere?   Michael Vick said he forgives Riley Cooper, and that should be the end of it.”

David keeps misreading. This is not a players’ decision. It’s a coaching decision and a management decision. Teams don’t need the distraction. By the way. It’s not 1947.

And finally, David makes some sense: “You can bet your sweet butt we would not be having this discussion if Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers had been caught saying this.  If it were them, they would be right out there on the playing field practicing with the team, getting ready for the season.”

Exactly. That’s what I mean. This was not a moral decision. This will be a business decision.

Dave: “I can’t wait when we hear tale of your past slurs. He who is without sin cast the first stone. It really shows class when writers like you want to ruin a man’s career over a word that is used in movies, television, within certain communities and on the streets. Shameful.”

Riley Cooper ruined his own career. He didn’t need help from anyone. 

Clay: “They need to crack down on racial slurring in rap songs.”

Well, yes, but that seems sort of beside the point. The Eagles aren’t trying to win the Nobel Peace Prize; they’re trying to win the NFC East.

Rick: “What Riley did was loutish, obscene, abhorrent and mean. It hurt people, especially the man it was directed at. I have no doubt that was Riley’s intent, as angry as he was. But please tell me when we as a society crossed the line that a person can no longer atone for their mistakes? That we no longer give second chances. That it’s OK to take a person’s livelihood away from them because they made a bad mistake. Not for breaking a law but for making a mistake. Riley needs to make amends first to the man he said those horrible words to. Then to his teammates and his employer. Then to his community, Philadelphia. Then to his family. And finally with himself. Riley is better than he was that night. Riley has given a great deal to Philadelphia. He is the Eagles’ United Way representative. He gives his time freely to other causes. He is a good person. He needs to build up trust again. I am sorry, but to compare a 25-year-old athlete to a head coach at a public institution that used the same abhorrent word and given the context surrounding both incidents is unfair and unbalanced. We are talking about a young man’s livelihood.”

We are, but the Eagles aren’t. The Eagles are in the business of winning football games. And Cooper now hurts them more than he helps them. This is not about what’s fair or unfair. Not about second chances. Not about life experiences. It’s not about the law or mistakes. It’s about the effect on the organization. NFL teams are obsessively single-focused. They will overlook all kinds of scandals, if it helps the teams. They will wash their hands quickly of anything that impedes the team.

 


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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