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August 12, 2015

Riley Cooper needs to address the elephant in the room

Eagles NFL
081215_Cooper_AP Matt Rourke/AP

Eagles WR Riley Cooper.

Eagles wideout Riley Cooper doesn't want to talk about race. But someone from the Eagles' media relations department needs to have a sit-down with him to discuss the proper ways to avoid answering questions he wants no part of answering.

Last week, Eagles coach Chip Kelly admitted that part of his public perception problem -- the one that has led to racist allegations -- could stem from his support of Cooper in the wake of a leaked video that captured the former Florida Gator yelling racial slurs at a black security guard during a Kenny Chesney concert at Lincoln Financial Field in 2013.

Following Kelly's comments, I asked Cooper if he agreed, but he wanted no part in answering. Instead, he opted for the ol' I-have-somewhere-to-be excuse and blew me off before even answering the question. Nothing. Not even a "No comment."

To be fair, I wouldn't want someone asking me about my worst public moment two years after the fact. But that moment was made newsworthy again last week when Kelly acknowledged a possible correlation between Cooper and his perceived image. He needs to stop treating the media as if we are out to get him. In doing so, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, one in which Cooper thinks negatively of the media, displays that disdain outwardly, and ultimately alienates himself from them.

Basically, it's the opposite of how to get us to leave you alone.

Today, after speaking to reporters on a variety of topics, from Sam Bradford to Tim Tebow to how the new receivers look, Cooper was again asked about Kelly's comments. This time it was Les Bowen of the Daily News, who asked the question much more delicately than I did a week ago. The exchange went something like this.

Les Bowen: Do you think that Chip sticking by you, as he said, may have had something to do with his negative perception among some former players?

Riley Cooper: "I hope not."

LB: Do you worry about that at all?

RC: [Long silence, ice-cold stare directed at Bowen]

RC: [Grabs pads and yells sarcastically] Thanks, guys!

And that, as they say, was that.

You'd think at this point, someone with the Eagles would have told Cooper that if he had talked about it when first asked, the questions would have gone away by now. They could easily give him examples of canned answers he can use that will deflect the questions and diffuse the situation. Instead, it's back out there. 

And these are fair questions. They aren't pointed. They aren't aimed to get him into any more trouble. They're an attempt to get Cooper's side of the story, or at least his thoughts on his coach's comments. 

It's not like he's being asked, "Hey, Riley. Do you still want to fight all the black people?"