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May 11, 2015

If Chip Kelly wants to halt racism allegations, he’ll cut Riley Cooper ASAP

In the chaos of this wild off-season, Chip Kelly has taken full control of Eagles personnel, has remade the roster with players committed to his ideals and has managed to tune out all the noise accompanying his many controversial decisions.

Unfortunately, there is one move he refuses to make. The coach simply will not get rid of Riley Cooper.

He has to get rid of Riley Cooper.

Ex-Eagle LeSean McCoy set off the latest ripple of dissent last week when he said: “You see how fast (Kelly) got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of them the fastest . . . There’s a reason he got rid of all the black players — the good ones — like that.”

Of course, the reason is that Kelly is a racist, or so McCoy believes. No doubt, the team’s all-time leading running back bases this conclusion on the following facts:

     • DeSean Jackson was released at the end of a Pro Bowl season in 2013.

     • LeSean McCoy was traded two months ago during a Hall of Fame career.

     • Riley Cooper is still on the roster.

Riley Cooper is not worth the money the Eagles are paying him, and he is not worth the trouble. The wide receiver is indeed exposing something ugly about his coach, though it isn’t racism. It’s stubbornness.

From the moment that hideous video surfaced of a drunken Cooper screaming the n-word at a country-music concert less than two years ago – just months after Kelly was hired – there has been a quiet belief among some of the black players that Kelly is racially biased.

Tra Thomas, a former Eagles player and a rare honest voice in the organization, acknowledged the problem in February after he was not rehired as an assistant. Unlike McCoy, Thomas was not speaking out of bitterness, nor was he saying that the perception was true.

Some black players cannot understand why Cooper not only survived that video, but that he received a five-year, $22.5-million contract six months later. Kelly committed a minimum of $8 million to a player who used the n-word in a threatening manner. Given Cooper’s baggage and his limited skills, that decision was not just remarkable; it was ridiculous.

Now, the reality of the situation is that Kelly is most certainly not a racist. He has more black players on his roster than on the one he inherited from Andy Reid. Kelly’s only bias is toward players who are willing to do what he tells them to do, without challenge. His culture is about attitude, not skin color.

Still, Cooper’s presence on the team is the one part of this argument that Kelly cannot win. Cooper ranked among the least productive starting wide receivers in the NFL last season, with 577 yards on 55 catches. His most notable accomplishments were dropped balls and dumb penalties.

Riley Cooper is not worth the money the Eagles are paying him, and he is not worth the trouble. The wide receiver is indeed exposing something ugly about his coach, though it isn’t racism. It’s stubbornness.

Granted, it will cost the Birds more money under the salary cap to cut Cooper right now than to keep him. Granted, he is the best blocking wide receiver on the roster. And granted, he does exactly what Kelly tells him to do, no questions asked.

But there are black players on the team who look at Riley Cooper and still see him in that video. They have a right to feel that way. Behavior like that, regardless of the circumstances, is impossible to forget. There is no logical reason to keep on the roster a fringe player who divides the team like this.

And that’s why Chip Kelly has to get rid of Riley Cooper.


Contrary to popular belief, Tom Brady’s legacy was not damaged when he was branded a cheater in the NFL Deflategate investigation that finally ended last week. His legacy was obliterated. The New England quarterback will forever carry a stain that no bright smile or disarming remark can ever remove.

Tom Brady is Barry Bonds. He is Alex Rodriguez. He is Lance Armstrong. He is toxic.

What made the report so damning was not the carefully worded conclusion by head investigator Ted Wells that it was “more probable than not” that Brady was complicit in the deflating of footballs to give his team an advantage in the most recent AFC championship game.

The two elements in the story from which Brady will never recover are the text messages sent between the two Patriots flunkies entrusted with deflating the footballs, and Brady’s refusal to cooperate with the probe. Remember, he was adamant – to the point of anger – that he was innocent when the stories first surfaced before the Super Bowl.

Well, now Brady said he needs more time to digest the report, no doubt to conjure some new lies. The truth is, no words can change his fate as the new poster boy for corruption in sports. Brady’s greed is the overriding theme of Deflategate, a man with a supermodel wife, three championship rings, more money than he could ever spend, movie-star good looks . . . and it wasn’t enough.

The big question now is how serious the penalty will be for Brady. How many games on the sidelines is sufficient after a superstar quarterback cheated to win a Super Bowl?

Well, here’s an even better question: Does the punishment really matter any more? Brady’s reign as a sports hero, was over the moment those text messages went public, revealing a lost soul who placed his own goals above fair play and human decency.

The fairy tale ended last week. Tom Brady just doesn’t know it yet.


In Mike Schmidt’s final season 26 years ago, he walked away from baseball with his batting average at an embarrassing .203. He was too proud to play another game, to continue the charade, so he retired after right in the middle of a road trip, on May 29, in San Diego.

Right now, Chase Utley is batting nearly 100 points below Schmidt’s breaking point, and it is no longer ridiculous to ask whether the equally proud second baseman is pondering a similar exit.

The end is rarely, if ever, a pleasant experience for the player or the fans who followed him, especially if it is someone special like Utley, whose breakneck style and championship ring will endear him always to Philadelphia.

But the numbers never lie, and right now the story they tell is humiliating. Not only is Utley, by far, the worst hitter in baseball through the first five weeks of the season, he needs a weeklong hitting streak just to reach Schmidt’s .203 mark. On bad knees, Utley is no sure bet to make it above Schmidt’s low-water mark if he finishes the season.

His loyal supporters point out that he has hit in bad luck and that he has learned to manage his knee issues well at 36, but kind words cannot mask the horror of a .116 batting average. These optimists also note that Utley would be crazy to walk away from a large chunk of his $15 million contract if he left soon; Schmidt was making only $2.25 million the years he retired.

Utley himself has shown no inclination of bailing on his career; reporters say he has actually resorted to some gallows humor about his plight. Deep down, though, he must be taking an inventory of his chronic knee condition, his slowing reflexes, his losing team and wondering whether Mike Schmidt had the right idea 26 years ago this month.

Is Chase Utley thinking of retirement?

At this point, how could he not be?


And finally ...

• Naysayers whining that Sam Bradford is no better than Nick Foles need a basic lesson in logic. Bradford was the No.1 pick in the 2010 draft. Foles was 88th in 2012. Bradford was in a bad offense with no weapons in St. Louis. Foles benefited from the novelty of Chip Kelly’s unique system in 2013. Bradford is better. No contest.

• This shake-up of the Eagles roster has been unprecedented, hasn’t it? Uh, no. Not at all. Entering his third season, Chip Kelly has 14 players remaining from the Andy Reid era. The third-year roster of Reid had 14 players left from the last Ray Rhodes team. Exact same number. Imagine that.

• Tommy Lasorda is a Norristown native, a beloved ex-manager and one of the great characters in baseball. So why does he still hate the Phillie Phanatic? He said again last week that the world’s best mascot disrespected him and the Dodgers. C’mon, Tommy. Lighten up.

• Who is the greatest basketball player ever? Michael Jordan? Kobe Bryant? LeBron James? No, no, and no. Check out a documentary running on the NBA Network called Wilt 100, which chronicles Wilt Chamberlain’s100-point game in Hershey 53 years ago. After the hour, you will have no doubt who is the greatest ever.

• DeSean Jackson jumped into the LeSean McCoy-Chip Kelly feud last week as only he can. The ex-Eagle said: “The teams that we’re on now is the teams that’s winning, the teams that’s gaining more of a respect of having them type of guys on the team.” Well, at least now we know exactly where he stands.