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Ford: The power of words

Walter Ford, Sports Editor
John R. Hart |

Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can ruin careers.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper caught all the right breaks leading up to training camp and a week ago looked like he was destined for a major role in the upcoming NFL season.

With Jeremy Maclin’s season ending injury, Cooper was going to get a shot at the No. 2 receiver position and a chance at stardom. But his mouth wrote a check that will cost him more than he ever imagined.



In a viral video shot at a Kenny Chesney concert in June and released this week, Cooper is seen using a racial slur when threatening the security staff at the concert.

Cooper has since apologized profusely for the slur and seems sincere, but I’ve been fooled to many times before to take an athlete at his word, and I’m not alone.




The Eagles excused Cooper from all team activities Friday so that he can focus on sensitivity training. They have set no time table for his return. It doesn’t take Columbo to figure out this is the Eagles phasing out the foul-mouthed pass catcher.

I would be surprised if any other team would open its arms, especially in a field where African-Americans make up 67 percent of the work force, according to the 2012 Racial and Gender Report Card conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

Cooper’s teammates on the Eagles for the most part have publicly accepted his apology, but that may be to maintain some semblance of team unity. Who knows what they are really thinking? Eagles’ running back LeSean McCoy said he can forgive Cooper but “can’t really respect somebody like that.”

Twitter and other social media sites have lit up with on-the-field threats toward Cooper by players in and around the league.

Cooper’s words may have been intended to strike fear or make someone feel small, but the reality is he has only created fear for himself and his career, and now, the whole world sees him as small.

His short-sighted need to attack a person’s race has now hurt him far more than it could those it was intended to. Cooper’s career is forever linked to his racism much like Michael Vick’s will indelibly be linked to dog fighting. You can make a mistake and, when caught, apologize, but we all know who you are, and no amount of football prowess can change that.

Using racial or bigoted slurs doesn’t make people seem tough, only ignorant and small-minded. In this day and age, do people really believe one race is better than the other or that the color of someone’s skin is an indicator of their character? If you do — it’s time to get a grip. And if you’re one of those people who thinks it’s funny to throw racially charged words into jokes, be careful of your audience because as we have all found out in this age of rampant social media outlets, someone will catch you being a racist and post your racism all over the internet.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email wford@theunion.com or call 530-477-4232.


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