Riley Cooper apologized Wednesday for using a racial slur while at a Kenny Chesney concert. (CSNPhilly.com)
"I am so ashamed and disgusted with myself. I want to apologize. I have been offensive. I have apologized to my coach, Jeffrey Lurie, and Howie Roseman and to my teammates. I owe an apology to the fans and to this community. I am so ashamed, but there are no excuses. What I did was wrong and I will accept the consequences."
- Riley Cooper
Speaking somberly and dressed in street clothes, a pony-tailed Riley Cooper apologized before TV cameras and reporters Wednesday evening, telling a larger audience that he regretted his racist remark in a video that went viral earlier in the day.
“I want to [start] off by saying I’m extremely embarrassed, I’m extremely hurt, I’m extremely sorry for my actions,” the fourth-year Eagles wide receiver said. “I want to come up and tell you guys that.”
The video first appeared on website CrossingBroad.com and features an irate Cooper screaming, “I’ll fight every n----- here,” while attending a Kenny Chesney concert on June 8 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Cooper said his comment was directed toward an African-American security guard during a “confrontation.” The same website featured another video of an irate Cooper having an argument with an unidentified person who doesn’t appear to be African-American.
Cooper said the remark didn’t accurately portray his personality or views toward African-Americans and aren’t reflective of his upbringing.
“I don’t use that [word],” Cooper said. “Like I said, I was raised way better than that. I have a great mom and dad at home, and they are disgusted with my actions.”
Cooper hadn’t yet addressed the team when he spoke to reporters around 5:45 p.m. but had spoken with Eagles coach Chip Kelly and with owner Jeffrey Lurie and planned to address teammates later.
The team punished Cooper with an undisclosed fine and released a statement from Lurie that said the Eagles were “shocked and appalled by Riley Cooper’s words.”
“This sort of behavior or attitude from anyone has no role in a civil society,” the statement read. “He has accepted responsibility for his words and his actions. He has been fined for this incident."
The NFL also released a statement, saying that the league “stands for diversity and inclusion” and that Cooper’s actions were “wrong, offensive, and unacceptable.”
Cooper said he would accept any further consequences. The league declined to say whether additional punishment would be levied. A league source indicated that the NFL isn’t likely to further discipline the veteran wideout.
Reactions to Cooper’s video poured in through social media. Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders tweeted his support to Cooper, while Marcus Vick, the younger brother of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, took to Twitter to issue a bounty on Cooper’s head (see story).
Asked how he would address his teammates, specifically black ones, Cooper said he would “tell them I’m extremely sorry.”
“I’m going to tell them exactly what I’m telling you guys,” he added. “There was a confrontation and I handled it extremely, extremely poorly.”
The former University of Florida receiver admitted that he had been drinking at the concert.
“But that’s no excuse for what I said and what I did,” he added.
Cooper said he was first made aware of the video Wednesday. He said no teammates were with him at the time, although a picture on the team’s official website shows he, Kelly, and several other teammates on stage with Chesney. In the picture, Cooper is wearing the same red tank top as he was in the video.
“This is kind of the lowest of the lows,” he said. “This isn’t how I want to be portrayed as. This isn’t the type of person that I am.”
In a matter of days, Cooper went from fighting for a starting spot to fighting to regain respect in the locker room.
On Sunday, one day after starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was lost for the season with a torn knee ligament, Cooper had become one of the leading candidate to step into a starting role.
Cooper, a Clearwater, Fla., native who was once drafted by the Phillies in the 15th round, spoke at Sunday’s practice at the Linc about carrying over his strong finish from the 2012 season after he missed the start of the year to recover from a fractured collarbone.
Now, as community tensions mount both locally and nationally, Cooper is in danger of being shunned by teammates and becoming a marked target by opponents.
“I’m going to tell them exactly what I’m telling you guys, how extremely sorry I am,” Cooper said. “I should have never said what I said. Most of the ones that know me, which excludes kind of the rookies coming in, they know what type of person I am.”
Cooper must also face the fan base of a city with a black population of 44.3 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau.
“I know no one in Philadelphia is happy with me right now,” he said. “I accept that. I just hope they see the true me and accept my apology. But I know it’s going to take a while.”