Fans shrug off Cooper's offensive remark

Posted: August 07, 2013

Anthony Bailey went to Lincoln Financial Field on Monday to hear Riley Cooper get booed.

But when the wide receiver corps emerged from the tunnel at the Eagles' second open practice, there was no Cooper, so there was no one to boo. He had been indefinitely excused from team activities after the racial slur he uttered in June became public.

While Eagles fans said Monday that Cooper's remarks were unquestionably offensive - and that he deserved to hear fans' displeasure - most downplayed the impact the derogatory language would have on the team's performance. Cooper's remarks, the faithful said, were inappropriate but not shocking enough to dampen fan support or define the franchise's 2013 season.

Fans said they would get over the incident.

"It's serious, but it's not overly serious. He seems like a half-decent guy most of the time," said Frank Stradling, 75, who said he has had season tickets to the Eagles for most of his life. "He didn't kill anybody."

Demetrius Pinder, 32, said he didn't hear chatter about Cooper in the stands Monday. All eyes were on football.

"Mike Vick backed him. His teammates are backing him. So I feel like people will get past it if he shows humility and he shows that he's willing to change," Pinder said. "No one's talking about - and I think that's a good thing."

The cohesion of the locker room and performance on the gridiron shouldn't be affected either, some fans said.

"What are you going to do, dwell on it?," asked Tom Reiner, standing alone as he watched practice unfold. "Sometimes you find a silver lining in things like this. It could bring the team closer together."

Eric West, 40, said Cooper's use of the slur was being blown out of proportion.

"I don't necessarily agree with what he said, but I also don't agree with the language used every day by the black community that he offended," said West, who is white.

Other Eagles fans watching practice Monday said it was clear that the remark would divide a rebuilding team under a new head coach, Chip Kelly.

Bailey, the fan who came Monday for the spectacle of Cooper's entrance, said he thought the support that his teammates have voiced was political and not genuine.

"You had a bad year last year here. I know you're trying to build something and it's going to take a process to get there. But you don't need these kind of distractions that early into the situation," Bailey said.

William Richie, 64, agreed.

"I feel bad, because I think it was just stupid and I don't think he's really that way. However, when you're in the public eye, that's what happens," said Richie. "I think it's splitting the team, and I'm not going to put anybody above the team."

But what if the backup receiver has a breakout year and helps put the team above the NFC East?

"If he catches 60 balls, I don't care what he said," Richie said. "I'll forgive him."


Contact Theodore Schleifer at 215-854-5607, tschleifer@philly.com, or follow @teddyschleifer on Twitter.

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