Which brings me to pro football player Riley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles, who, on June 8, hanging with friends at a Kenny Chesney concert, allegedly agitated about an interaction with security, expressed his displeasure with a racial slur. In the 44 years since I publicly slurred Denise, we have constructed a world where the line between private and public has more or less disappeared. Cameras are everywhere. And Cooper’s ugliness went viral on the Internet.
So, is Riley Cooper an evil racist? Did he reveal some terrible darkness that has always lain hidden in his heart? Or was he merely a slightly (or significantly) inebriated doofus, caught in a culture of voyeurism stalking us all with cameras filming scenes that, in years gone by, would have never seen the light of day?
Teammate Michael Vick spoke of forgiveness. No surprise to me. He who is forgiven much forgives much. Michael turned in his “condemnation card” a long time ago.
Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin was an opportunist. That is, he took the opportunity to be humble and sage. In a speech that lit an eternal flame of respect in my heart for Irvin, the former player affirmed that Cooper’s behavior was wrong and intolerable, accepted Cooper’s apology, and then said:
“But I go through all kinds of emotions. I want to self-indict. Because I’m guilty of using that word when I shouldn’t. I was with my (teenage) son in Las Vegas just last week because he was out there playing (in a basketball tournament.) And as we were walking through, the music was blaring, and everybody was singing the song, and we say (the racial slur) in music and I’m like, wow, we’re making millions of dollars off of saying it, and then we turn around and get so mad when someone else says it. And I’m guilty. And maybe we should start looking at that. I want harmony for my sons. That’s what we all should work toward.”
Teammate LeSean McCoy had a different view: “I think where a person thinks that the cameras are off and nobody is really watching, you let your true side come out, and I think that’s what happened. I think it’s a matter of him actually getting caught.”
What do you mean by “true side,” LeSean? Do you mean “instinctual side?” My aggressive thoughts and fantasies, antisocial bravado, unbridled scorn, shameless contempt, sadism, ego, lust, appetite, profanity? Yes, LeSean. I have all of those things in my personality, and they are all “true” about me.
Are you saying that Riley Cooper has an “instinctual side,” and you don’t? Gee, I hope not, LeSean. Because it’s just not true. And just because you and I, like everyone else, sometime give license to our Instinctual Self when we are alone or with an inner circle of true friends DOES NOT mean this “true” part of us can in every case define the whole of us.
There are regularly things I do and say on any given day in any given moment that I would do and say differently or not at all if I was being recorded for posterity. How about you, Good Reader?
Riley Cooper has stepped away from football for a while. I’ll be rooting for him, and for his teammates, hoping they will show us how justice and mercy are ultimately one door at which redemption and reconciliation stand knocking and waiting.