Goodell and Eagles Drop the Ball on the N-Word

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has basically excused himself from the Riley Cooper situation.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has basically excused himself from the Riley Cooper situation.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has basically excused himself from the Riley Cooper situation.

The NFL had an immediate chance to send a message to the rest of the league. An opportunity was front and center for the Philadelphia Eagles to make the correct statement to the team and its fan base.

They both chose to downplay the utterance of the N-word by wide receiver Riley Cooper, a racial epithet caught on tape at a country western concert.

When it was time to step up to the plate, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, known for dropping the hammer on players, coaches and team personnel for getting out of bounds, practically brushed Cooper’s comments to the side by issuing a sorry and unacceptable response to the situation. You might say Goodell punted.

By nonchalantly dismissing Cooper’s regrettable use of the most foul word in the English dictionary, Goodell quietly and unnervingly sent a message to his black employees to get over it and go out and play ball.

The Eagles, with their slap on the wrist penalty of sending Cooper home for two extra days, have also shown their colors on the situation by giving the wideout a pass.

Michael Vick, who spent considerable time in prison for operating a dogfighting operation, probably wishes he was forgiven as easily for his sins against humanity and society.

Goodell and the Eagles are sadly mistaken if they think this situation is going to get swept under the rug by the black players in the team’s locker room and the rest of the league. They may forgive but they won’t forget.

With the NFL 2013 season weeks away Goodell and the Eagles are betting on players will be so enamored with playing football that love and harmony will overwhelm and bury the negative backlash from Cooper’s statement.

Goodell and the Eagles want it all to go away. They expect the players to all go back to work as if nothing ever happened. Sorry, Roger, but it did. The league and the Eagles are betting wrong and are about to hit a crapshoot.

Being called “nigger” may not affect you and your household, Mr. Goodell, but what Cooper said affects every black person that buys a ticket to an NFL game.  It affects every African American fan that turn on their television set to watch the most popular sport in North America that is made up by mostly black ballplayers.

riley-cooper1_zps96835cd8It definitely affects every black man in the Eagles locker room and the around the league. It affects every black person staffed as personnel on individual teams and employed with the NFL. So when Cooper said he would “fight every nigger here” at the Kenny Chesney’s concert he attended, did he imply he would take on all of those individuals as well?

Does that include referencing my black daughter? My black friends? My family? How about President Barack Obama? He’s black. What Cooper said was not only ignorant, it was dangerous and reckless. The insensitivity used by Goodell and the Eagles regarding this power keg of a situation will come back to haunt the team and the league.

I was seven years-old when I received my indoctrination of the N-word when a group of white men chased me down the street from my home with bats and sticks because they didn’t any “nigger” in their neighborhood. Here is a history lesson to Mr. Goodell and the Eagles brass: The N-word is a word you never forget as a black person.

Its meaning is degrading. Its intent is hate. It is associated with fear, lynchings, segregation and cross-burnings.

Goodell, the NFL  and the Eagles are trying to distance themselves from the situation. But I have news for Goodell. This is not going away. Nor will this episode be forgotten. African Americans make up the majority of players in the NFL. This is their moment of truth. They can’t afford to let Goodell, the Eagles and the rest of the NFL slide by on this one.

Cooper shouldn’t be given a pass. Vick never received one. There are media members that work at prominent media outlets who have said what Vick did was an unforgivable act. What about Cooper? Is he being judged by the same standards?

I have not seen or heard about Cooper going into the black community in Philadelphia and meeting with African American leaders as Vick was forced to do with the Humane Society and other animal rights groups by the Eagles and the NFL. With the racial aftermath from the George Zimmerman murder trial still simmering on a national level, Cooper’s mouthpiece comes at a time when the race dialouge is heated.

Unfortunately, the Eagles and the NFL have chosen a path to ignore that conversation.

What’s going to happen when an NFL player use a homophobic slur? What is Goodell and the league going to do if a black player refers to white people in a derogatory way as “crackers?’ Will they get the same sensitivity training as Cooper or will they face a double-standard backlash?

Hopefully, we won’t find out. But Goodell and the Eagles have already laid down the foundation for a possible player mutiny should it occur.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1065 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.