Riley Cooper (Yes, N-Bomb Riley Cooper) Signs $25 Million Extension
In many ways, the NFL is a microcosm of our society, a society that forgives almost anything.
It's a league that has forgiven people who have "obstructed the investigation" of murder (Ray Lewis) and people who have killed innocent people while behind the wheel of a car while they were polluted beyond belief (Leonard Little). It's part of what makes the debate about Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin "ever playing in the league again" so laughable.
Of course, they will. As long as they can still play.
I say all of this because seven months ago, the "hot sports take" of the day was whether Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper would "ever find a locker room that would accept him!!"
You all remember Riley Cooper, right?
Yes, THAT Riley Cooper.
Cooper dropped an on-video n-bomb late last July at a Kenny Chesney concert that, once it hit the internet, went viral like a gas fire. As the debate over the n-word and the use of it (and possible penalization of using it on the field) rages on today, there was nothing to debate at the time this video spread -- Riley Cooper was using the word in the most mean spirited, demeaning fashion possible.
Despite what a few very mentally small people would contend, this was the "-er" version of the word, not the "-a" version (as if it would be OK for Cooper to use either).
Eagles teammates were divided on how or if to accept him in the locker room, players around the league speculated as to whether he would be re-accepted into their locker room if it had happened with their team, the 24 hour news/debate cycle chewed the story up and digested it over about a three or four day period.
Riley Cooper quickly went into damage control, with attempts at an apology on Twitter...
I am so ashamed and disgusted with myself. I want to apologize. I have been offensive. I have apologized to my coach, Jeffrey Lurie, and— Riley Cooper (@RileyCooper_14) July 31, 2013
Howie roseman and to my teammates. I owe an apology to the fans and to this community. I am so ashamed, but there are no excuses. What I did— Riley Cooper (@RileyCooper_14) July 31, 2013
Was wrong and I will accept the consequences.— Riley Cooper (@RileyCooper_14) July 31, 2013
Cooper then called a press conference to reiterate his apology...
And while many rolled their eyes at the time, Cooper handled his business the only way that you can handle it in a situation like this, and still give yourself a chance to survive in the NFL.
Contrition, more contrition, and go back to work. Also, a little bit of luck.
Cooper was also incredibly fortunate on two fronts. First, the Eagles lost wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to a season ending knee injury in the preseason, so Cooper was actually needed. Maclin's injury made Riley Cooper far less disposable. Also, Cooper was very fortunate that the African American leaders on his team were Michael Vick and DeMeco Ryans, one guy who knows something about being forgiven and another who is one of the most dignified guys in the league.
This whole thing could have unraveled in a weaker locker room.
But most of all, Riley Cooper proved over a 16 game season that he could play. He proved that he was valuable to the Eagles on the field. 47 catches, 835 yards, 8 touchdowns, and he got better as the season went on. The Eagles need Riley Cooper.
Thursday morning, the story broke that Riley Cooper would be inking a five year, $25 million contract extension with the Eagles.
Seven months ago, five bad seconds on a YouTube were going to end his career. Now, his grandchildren's college tuition is all paid for.
So again, repeat after me -- if you can play in the NFL, you'll be forgiven for almost anything.
Riley Cooper isn't the primary example, he's just the latest one.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.