Riley Cooper, Corporate America, and The “N-Word”

A (White) NFL Receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles ignited a firestorm after he was caught on tape using the ‘n-word’:

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000224943/article/eagles-excuse-riley-cooper-from-all-team-activities

The entire Riley Cooper situation is overblown.

We don’t know the context in which he uttered the word. People usually don’t use such aggressive statements out-of-the-blue, especially in  public. Was Cooper being harassed by security or someone else around him? Did someone ask him a leading question intended to evoke a controversial response? Why doesn’t the tape show what happened before and immediately after Cooper’s use of the n-word? And why was he foolish enough to let this get on tape in the first place?

It’s easy to indict him without digging deeper. in a world where a 24-hour news cycle pairs with cell phones to spark a rise in “yellow journalism”, the nation would be better served asking a few more questions. Understanding the events that preceded and followed Cooper’s statement would provide insight. It wouldn’t excuse what Cooper said, but could provide a better idea of what he said and why he said it..

Either way, Cooper was wrong to say it.

What we shouldn’t do is call for his job or any other punishment that far exceeds his transgression. If the Eagles want to fine him to appease corporate sponsors, that’s cool.

Suspend him? Questionable.

The moralists—often the most hypocritical of the bunch—should leave their torches and pitchforks at home and move on to issues worth fighting for.

He uttered an offensive word. He didn’t punch out a teammate or stomp on a homeless guy’s leg. It was out of line, but the sun will rise tomorrow.  People will always find something to be offended about. A vocal minority will always call for heads to roll because of perceived slights; we protect individual freedom (in thought and action) by refusing to overreact to them.

Cooper’s punishment should fit the offense. Let him do some community service or some other public relations gesture if the Eagles and NFL really want to make a show of it. Anything more is overkill and hypocritical. When NFL owners start honoring the contracts they sign with NFL Players, then they can preach about goodwill and integrity.

If Cooper grew up around blacks, impoverished whites, or even Hispanic people (who often say the ‘n’ word with impunity themselves), he’s accustomed to using it without fear of reprisal. That may explain why he said the word in a public setting with such nonchalance, but doesn’t excuse it.

Plenty of people use racist terms without being racist themselves.

Of course, his (black) teammates probably utter the word on a daily basis. It’s the old “I can criticize my family, but you can’t’” argument extended to the use of the ‘n’ word. This line of thinking has merit, but it leads to confusion and reinforces negative stereotypes. At best, it’s ideologically-inconsistent (blacks want to be treated as intellectual equals, but don’t want to engage in intellectually-honest discussion).

A quick aside on on the George Zimmerman Trial:

Post-trial reaction immediately after the Zimmerman acquittal ran the gamut:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/13/justice/zimmerman-verdict-reax

http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-victor-cruz-roddy-white-george-zimmerman-20130715,0,7819018.story#axzz2aquvlokG

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/07/jimmy-carter-on-george-zimmerman-verdict-right-decision/

Celebrities who encouraged vigilantism after the Zimmerman Trial, acted irresponsibly and, ironically, criminally themselves.

If they bothered to watch the entire trial, they would have seen that Zimmerman was likely to beat both the Manslaughter and Murder charges. If they DID watch the trial and STILL believe Zimmerman got away with murder, they need to put their thinking caps back on. We don’t assign guilt based on who took the worst beating or who looks like the victim; we examine the information available and make reasoned conclusions based on law, morality, and reason.

Check emotion and agendas at the door; let the facts do the talking.

If anything, people disappointed with the verdict should blame the prosecution for presenting a weak case. The prosecutionwho ought to be under investigation themselves— had the burden of establishing Zimmerman’s guilt and failed to do so. If you want to rabble-rouse or galvanize the masses, have the courage and integrity to point your anger in the right direction.

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