Riley Cooper is an idiot. His hateful performance at a country concert was hurtful and could still spell the end of his time with the Eagles. His journey back to credibility with his teammates makes a Schuylkill traffic jam look like 200 miles of open South Dakota highway and may never lead to redemption. All of this has been discussed and dissected. Cooper is in counseling, and football returns to Philadelphia Friday, offering a needed respite from the ugly incident.
But there is a larger issue here that hasn’t been addressed, and it’s time to hold some people accountable.
Plainly put, anybody in the media or the NFL world who has expressed outrage and disgust over Cooper’s rant and still uses the racist nickname of the Washington franchise should be disqualified from the discussion.
This is not negotiable. The league persists in degrading Native Americans with a hurtful appellation, all in the name of commerce, and those who continue to refer to Washington by a word that burns a sector of our country with white-hot intensity are complicit in the racism. People who claim that those offended are merely succumbing to political correctness should read the stories of Native Americans who were slurred with the word as they were forced into a crippling poverty that persists today. In some Native American communities, like the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana, the annual unemployment rate tops 60 percent.
If you think using a derogatory word as a sports team’s nickname doesn’t perpetuate a stereotype, then you are kidding yourself and listening to those who say Native Americans should relax and stop being so politically correct. Giving out trophies to Little Leaguers for trying is politically correct. Ceasing the use of a racist term that has been used for decades is the right thing to do.
Of course Washington owner Danny Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell are marching arm-and-arm on this one, each beholden to the almighty buck. Snyder has said the franchise will NEVER (his capital letters) change its name. Goodell backed him up, bottom line in mind. It’s funny that someone who is so tough on the players is such a pushover for the owners. Oh, right, the players don’t pay his salary, which was reported to be $29.5 million in 2011. At that rate, a new expansion team could be called just about any racial or ethnic slur, and Goodell would rubber-stamp it, so long as the franchise’s brand was strong.
It’s time for the same media outlets that have decried Cooper’s actions to show some fortitude. Stop using the Washington team’s nickname. Stop perpetuating a racist term. Stop glorifying the NFL for your own profit to the point that it doesn’t matter whether you carry headlines that belittle a group of people. If Snyder were to lose his willing promotional partners, he might stop making all-caps proclamations regarding his future actions and change. So what if it is based solely on a shrunken bottom line? It doesn’t matter how it happens, so long as it occurs.
The video containing Cooper’s remark created a legitimate sense of indignation among African-Americans, from the Eagles locker room to the furthest reaches of America. There have been newspaper columns about the need for serious discussion about race and TV commentary about how racism remains alive in this country. Cooper’s hateful performance has no doubt triggered countless discussions about how words can wound and denigrate. Those are all good things.
Now, it’s time to broaden the discussion. It’s time for the people who have expressed anger over the incident to look at what happens when a Native American sees the Washington name in print or hears it being said on TV as if it were a benign designation. There are precious few Native Americans in the NFL — Rams QB Sam Bradford is the highest-profile player — so when the offensive word is used, there is no outcry in most locker rooms. The 2010 census revealed Native Americans comprise 1.2% of the population. That’s not a strong lobby and certainly not powerful enough to take on the NFL.
It’s uncertain whether the Cooper incident will have a long-term effect on the Eagles. The locker room is in a huge state of flux right now, and given the remarks of some players in the last week, it’s unlikely this will end quickly. The good news is that there is a football game on Friday night, and we will be able to speak about something besides the Cooper debacle.
The Washington mess, however, isn’t going away. That’s a good thing. It’s time for external pressure to make Snyder and Goodell rethink their institutional racist stances and change things. From now on, the media needs to eschew the use of the term. Show some spine. Take the stand. Do it right.
Then, we’ll take on the Cleveland You-know-whos of the MLB.
- Alex Rodriguez is getting a 200-plus game suspension because of his personality, smug approach to his P.E.D. abuse and the fact that he continues to behave like a jerk. It’s probably unfair that Major League Baseball is unloading on him like this, but when you act like a horse’s ass, and you cheat, you’re going to get hammered.
- If Johnny Manziel did indeed take five figures to sign autographs, as a recent report indicates, his NC2A career should be over. This doesn’t just call for a suspension. It mandates banishment. He profited greatly from his success, and though the NC2A rules are stacked horribly against the athletes, and substantial reform is necessary, Manziel’s behavior — if true — goes well beyond the realm of minor offenses. Stay tuned, because Johnny Football could be coming to a Supplemental Draft near you.
- So, the Phillies stood pat, did they? Just goes to show that they didn’t have much of anything the rest of baseball wanted. The worst thing that could happen over the next 50-plus games is a renaissance that gives management the chance to say contention isn’t too far away. This team is fading, and it will take serious work to fix things. A fruitless rally will only lead to a reprise of this year’s mediocrity. Oh, and about 10,000 fewer fans every game in 2014.