“As the Mayor of this City and an African-American man, I find the remarks made by Riley Cooper, repugnant, insensitive and ignorant, and all of us, regardless of race or nationality, should be offended by these comments,” Michael A. Nutter said in a release. “I recognize that the private sector is very different than the public sector in terms of rules and procedures, but I would note that in our government, if an executive branch ‘at-will’ employee, somewhat similar to Mr. Cooper’s status with the Eagles, made such comments, I would insist on a suspension at a minimum and would seriously have to evaluate terminating such an individual from employment with the City.”
If that portion of the statement didn’t make Nutter’s position regarding the suitability of a fine clear, he had more on that point.
“In a year when we celebrated the great achievements of Jackie Robinson in the movie ’42’, it is truly saddening that racial epithets are still being hurled like baseballs, or by a football player, at the human dignity of African-Americans and others,” Nutter said. “This incident is a disgrace, and cannot be excused by just paying a fine, as if it were a parking ticket.”
The challenge, Nutter believes, is finding a sanction that matches the transgression.
“Mr. Cooper has done something which he clearly knows was wrong and he has accepted personal responsibility, but the punishment should match the intense level of the offense,” Nutter said. “It is ultimately up to the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL to determine whether what has been announced as a penalty is enough, but in my opinion it falls short of a serious recognition of just how offensive and hurtful these comments are to African-Americans and other people of good conscience who fight discrimination on many fronts — race, religion, gender, sexual preference, marriage equality, employment and many other areas. Sports players are in fact, knowingly or unknowingly, role models for our youth who often imitate their behavior and actions. It is my view that beyond any other punishment that could potentially result from this incident, Mr. Cooper must look deep in his heart to see how, beyond his personal public apology, he can repair the damage that he has caused to the Philadelphia community, and its relationship with the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.”
We’re not sure how much damage has been done to the relationship between the Eagles and their city. No one blames the Eagles for Cooper’s remark, and few (apart from Nutter) have argued that something more than a fine should be imposed.
Still, Nutter’s comments become yet another factor that could impact the willingness of Cooper’s teammates to welcome him back, whenever his self-imposed exit from the team ends.