Riley Cooper has apologized, but things unquestionably have changed for the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver and his teammates.
The Philadelphia Eagles returned to practice at training camp Thursday, the day after Cooper apologized publicly and privately to teammates for making a racial slur. He was fined by the team and will be seeking sensitivity training, but no matter how much forgiveness Michael Vick offers, there may be no forgetting.
Running back LeSean McCoy told CSNPhilly.com that, while he forgives Cooper, “on a friendship level, I can’t really respect someone like that.”
“Ain’t nothing to prove. He said how he felt,” McCoy said. “He’s still a teammate. I’m still going to block for him. I’m still gonna show great effort. Just on a friendship level, and as a person, I can’t really respect somebody like that. I think as a team, we need to move past it. There are some things that are going to be hard to work with, to be honest.”
Cooper intends to do more damage control, speaking individually with teammates and apologizing to a security guard who triggered the racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert in June. That’s assuming he remains with the team. The wide receiver doesn’t have the kind of blinding talent that will assure his future with the Eagles and trump the awkwardness he brings to the locker room. On Day 1, it appeared that, as Philly.com’s Jeff McLane wrote, “a line was being drawn between players who were ready to move on after the incident and those who weren’t sure if they could forget what Cooper had said.” That’s a bad, bad thing for a locker room.
“If he’s on the team, he’s on the team,” a player who requested anonymity told McLane. “Don’t mean I have to like him.”
In public pronouncements, Coach Chip Kelly called the slur “a heinous mistake” and Cooper called what he was going through “the lowest of the lows.” The Eagles players, for now, have no choice but to try to move past it, even as pundits and even one Eagles player who was not identified by McLane said that former coach Andy Reid would have punished Cooper more severely.
“You have to let it go,” another wide receiver, Jason Avant, said, “because it will create an atmosphere of the whites in this corner and the blacks in this corner, and we definitely don’t want that as a team.”