There’s a Reason Players Think Chip Kelly Might Be Racist

Missanelli: His actions after Riley Cooper's racist rant were tone deaf. His comments about it this week only made matters worse.

Photos | Jeff Fusco except for Tra Thomas | Howard Smith, USA Today Sports

LeSean McCoy, Stephen A. Smith, Tra Thomas and Brandon Boykin (outer photos, clockwise from top left) have all ascribed racial motivations to Chip Kelly’s (center) personnel decisions. Photos | Jeff Fusco except for Tra Thomas | Howard Smith, USA Today Sports

Chip Kelly is not a racist.

But he apparently is oblivious to why some black players may think he’s tinged with a little racism when they unload those charges on their former coach after he has shown them the door.

If Kelly is as smart as we all think he is, he cannot therefore be blind to the fact that his support of wide receiver Riley Cooper has provided the undercurrent of all the sniping done by the likes of LeSean McCoy, Tre Thomas, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, and, last but not least, recently deposed cornerback Brandon Boykin.

And his response this week to the Riley issue was an insult to every reasonably minded fan in the Delaware Valley.

We have known for two years now that the Eagles keeping Cooper on the team after his slur-laden rant at a country music concert — where he blatantly and disparagingly used the “n” word to insult a black security guard and every black person within earshot — created a cesspool in a certain corner of the Eagles locker room.

People don’t forget things like that, no matter how fervently Michael Vick and Jason Avant try to stamp out the controversy. Actions speak louder than words of reconciliation, and the action black players were looking for at the time of the Cooper incident was that the white wide receiver would be cut from the team, not rehabilitated by a therapist and then given a glistening new contract.

And from that moment on, discontent from Eagles players who had been dispatched from the team came easily, as if they’re picking a can of Riley off the shelf and throwing it at Kelly.

It’s not that Kelly is a racist. His roster is 85 percent black. He has replaced black players with other black players. The majority of the players he drafted are black. He has cut white players from the team.

His methodology seems to read simply enough: He wants guys who buy into the way he does things, singularly focused on football. If you run up against that — in McCoy’s case, there was too much “me”; Evan Mathis had his mind more on money than playing guard; Boykin was angry because they wouldn’t give him a chance to start at an outside cornerback position — then you are, in Chip’s mind, a poison apple likely to spoil the glistening bunch in the locker room.

But Kelly misses the point on why players would lash racial accusations at him on their way out the door. It’s all because of Cooper. All they want Kelly to do is understand that. And he apparently refuses.

Asked about Cooper’s presence in this entire racial backlash, Kelly said the following: “I think that Riley made a mistake; that’s part of it. We all backed him … I think that’s part of being in an organization and a team. I look at that as a specific incident where he was 100 percent wrong. Those are things that should never be said.”

“I hope he learned his lesson,” continued Kelly. “I think he regrets what he did that day, every single day. I see that in him. Do I regret what I did in terms of how we handled Riley? No I don’t.”

Kelly was then asked whether he could see a connection between his benevolent treatment of Cooper and the backlash from some of his exiled black players.

“There could be. I literally don’t spend time trying to connect Y to X to Z. We have other things to do,” he said.

It was probably the worst answer the coach could have given. Surely he has time to make those connections. It is his JOB to make those connections — to read his locker room. And if Kelly isn’t willing to do that, then he apparently also doesn’t know that he’s sitting on a spring-loaded grenade when it comes to race.

With this kind of mentality and methodology, this coach better win.  Or a lot of things may blow up in his face.

Mike Missanelli is on 97.5 FM The Fanatic every week day from 2 to 6 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMiss975.