Jul 31, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper (14) addresses the media concerning an internet video at the Eagles NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

What Did Riley Cooper Say

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

What did Eagles WR Riley Cooper say that has the entire NFL world abuzz?

What did Riley Cooper say that has his teammates telling the media that they have lost respect for him?

What did Riley Cooper say that has prompted the Eagles to excuse him from team activities?

Riley Cooper said the “N word” and directed it at a man who was just trying to do his job. He also directed at any other black man or woman that might happen to be in the vicinity, just to be sure his friends knew he was willing to “fight” and degrade more people than just the man in front of him.

Riley Cooper also said something else this week, that everyone reading this article should take note of.

Riley Cooper said “be honest with yourself and face our prejudices.”

He may not have said it out loud but Cooper is teaching us all a lesson that we’d better heed.

Most of us don’t like to think about our prejudices. We like to think that we go through our lives as genuinely good people. We like to think that we don’t judge others off the color of their skin, their sex or their religion. We like to think that we give everyone a fair shake and make our minds up about people based on their character and their actions and nothing else.

At least I know I do.

I am sure Riley Cooper felt the same way about himself, up until a few days ago.

If he did, however, he wasn’t being honest with himself.

Cooper didn’t just learn the n-word last week. More than likely, the Kenny Chesney concert probably wasn’t the first time he decided to add the word to his vocabulary.

But that doesn’t mean Cooper has white, hooded robes and large wooden crosses in his basement.

Maybe Cooper only ever used the word when he got drunk around his white friends. Maybe he only used it when telling equal opportunity racist jokes with friends he knew wouldn’t be offended. Maybe he only ever used it inside his own head.

We’re not likely to ever find out.

I believe Cooper when he says he is disgusted with what he said. I believe him when he says his parents are sickened by his actions. I don’t think he is a bad person or even a racist.

But I do think he has been dishonest with himself about his own prejudices.

Riley Cooper’s mistake is a warning to all of us to not ignore our prejudiced thoughts. We all have them, Black, white, red or green, we judge people and we judge them for all kinds of different reasons.

What is important is that we self-police our own thoughts and actions and that we are honest with ourselves about what those thoughts and actions mean.

Somewhere along the line, Riley Cooper probably thought the n-word or used the n-word and had the opportunity to stop himself and examine what his use of that word meant and could mean if he allowed himself to continue thinking or using it.

Instead, Cooper likely shook off any doubts he had about his actions, preferring to continue going through life believing he is a terrific person and that his actions weren’t hurting anyone. He probably allowed himself to believe he wasn’t “really prejudiced” or that he was just “joking around.”

And Riley’s actions didn’t hurt anyone…until they did.

Now Cooper has to sufferer the consequences in public. Those actions are going to cost him friends and fans and maybe even his job.

The rest of us, however, now have another chance for self-reflection.

I don’t think any human being can totally prevent all prejudiced thoughts.

But it is up to us whether or not we choose to deal with them privately…or publicly.

Just ask Riley Cooper.

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