The Philadelphia Eagles seemed to have finally put Riley Cooper’s n-word video behind them. At the least, the Eagles had made it so that Cooper’s continued presence on the team wasn’t a headline anymore. However, one fight between Cooper and African-American teammate Cary Williams on Sept. 5 revived the whole issue again, even if it wasn’t the cause of the brawl.
According to the Associated Press, defensive back Williams broke up a pass meant for Cooper in practice, then got shoved and responded by throwing “a couple punches.” Vick led the charge of teammates that had to restrain Williams, just as Vick led the way in coming to Cooper’s defense when his video leaked.
When Cooper’s use of the n-word at a Kenny Chesney concert first leaked, the Eagles were shrouded in controversy when they didn’t suspend or cut him. But once the preseason started, the backlash faded, or at least wasn’t in the headlines anymore. It looked like Cooper would get to stay under the radar when the Eagles visit the Washington Redskins on Sept. 8, yet that seems unlikely now.
Cooper claimed it was just a case of the situation being “super competitive,” while DeSean Jackson also cited Williams as an “overaggressive” player. While it is easy to assume that Williams was letting off steam at Cooper over his past words, it could not be confirmed for certain -- and the Eagles certainly wouldn’t admit it if it was true. Williams had no comment himself, which may or may not be telling.
Either way, Vick accurately called the whole thing “a distraction,” which is exactly what the Eagles don’t want or need. Just when everyone was talking about actual football, the start of the Chip Kelly era and their showdown with the Redskins, the big elephant in the Eagles’ locker room returned to the forefront.
Even if Cooper didn’t provoke Williams and even if their fight had nothing to do with the n-word, the mere idea of it cannot keep coming up. The Eagles opened themselves up to a world of risk and backlash by keeping Cooper, and trusting that it wouldn’t hurt the locker room in the long run.
To be proven right and to avoid a huge undermining blow to Kelly’s regime, Philadelphia can’t have incidents like this involving Cooper for any reason whatsoever -- especially not this close to game time.