It’s a good thing for Kerry Collins that Twitter wasn’t around in the late 1990s. The 17-year NFL veteran was the first player selected in the history of the Carolina Panthers franchise, but he’s perhaps best known for something that happened off the field. In 1997, at a party held to celebrate the end of training camp, Collins directed a racial epithet at second-year receiver Mushin Muhammad. Mike Freeman, now of CBS Sports and then of the New York Times, wrote that Collins had the kind of relationship with some of his black teammates where some of those teammates were not offended by whatever word was used (you can certainly figure it out). But Muhammad was not one of those teammates. A fight nearly broke out, and that story followed Collins through the rest of his career. He threw for over 40,000 yards and appeared in Super Bowl XXXV with the New York Giants, but some will only remember Collins as the guy who called his teammate an unacceptable word.
That’s how long such a thing can follow you. One stupid, thoughtless utterance in that regard, and you’re going to carry it with you for a long, long time.
''Kerry apologized and everything is fine now between the two,'' Collins’ agent, Lee Steinberg, told Freeman back then about Collins and Muhammad. ''These are real human beings who interact with each other on a daily basis. But Kerry definitely has no problem with black people.''
Maybe Riley Cooper has no problem with black people, but he’s going to have one hell of a time convincing anyone of that now – including and especially his own teammates. The Philadelphia Eagles receiver, projected to move up the depth chart after the recent injury to Jeremy Maclin, was caught on video at a Kenny Chesney concert at Lincoln Financial Field in June, saying to an African-American security guard that "I will jump that fence and fight every [N-word] here" during an altercation.
Adding the threat of violence to that implicit racism makes it even more reprehensible, but it’s the one word that Cooper will have to get over. And it doesn’t really matter if Cooper has never uttered that word in anger before, which he said during his Wednesday press conference/apology. That’s extremely difficult to believe – a look at the video shows a guy who seems pretty comfortable with that particular term. What those people who work with Cooper in the game of football will have to do is to decide whether it’s something they can get past. Quarterback Michael Vick seems to have done so, at least publicly.
"He apologized for what he did, and as a team we understood," Vick said on Wednesday evening. "We all make mistakes in life and we all do and say things that maybe we do mean or we don't mean. But as a teammate, I forgave him."Read More »from Riley Cooper, how dumb people learn, and racism in the NFL