New York Jets Quarterback Michael Vick has “been there” for his teammates in more ways than one.
Before the rise of Nick Foles, before backing up Geno Smith; Michael Vick was there for Riley Cooper.
Michael Vick was more than magnanimous when it came to bringing the Eagles locker room back together after WR – Riley Cooper was caught on tape making a racial slur at a country music concert. Vick put himself on the line.
Riley Cooper says he’ll fight… In this 2012 video clip.
VICK, in an ESPN interview had this to say recalling when he heard that “something” was up.
Michael Vick stood up for a drunken Riley Cooper when others weren’t so forgiving.
In fact, Eagles Cornerback Cary Williams got into a physical altercation with the Cooper.
You would think the two are the best of friends.
You would think the episode would have made Cooper grateful.
You would think they kept in contact.
The truth is Riley Cooper hasn’t even answered texts from Vick.
Mike Vick had these remarks surrounding Riley Cooper and his behavior:
Concerning the video itself;
“And when I’d seen it I didn’t believe it,” Vick told ESPN NewYork.com. “I couldn’t even see him fixing his face to say that because I’d known him for three years.”
On his attempts to quell the outrage;
“I just felt like I was the most capable guy on that team of taking a stand for Riley, and being a voice for him at that time,” Vick said. Without taking that stand and being that voice, the video of Cooper’s racial slur “was going to derail our team. Unfortunately, it was going to derail Riley’s career. It would have ended his career.”
Cooper apologized to teammates who weren’t in the mood to hear it. Then coach Chip Kelly addressed his players about a problem he couldn’t attack with X’s and O’s. Kelly asked the Eagles if any of them wanted to speak; Cooper wasn’t in the room.
“Nobody had anything to say,” Vick recalled. “Everybody had kind of a dumbfounded look on their faces. … I just felt like something needed to be said at that point, and Chip kind of gave me a look like, ‘Mike, come on. Give me something.'”
So Mike gave him something even though Vick’s brother, Marcus, had tweeted the offer of $1,000 for the first safety who flattened Cooper and Eagles RB LeSean McCoy said lost respect for the receiver.
Vick, who himself once asked millions of fans for forgiveness asked dozens of players to forgive Cooper for his show of ignorance.
“I stood in front of the team, I stood in front of the cameras and defused that whole situation.” Vick said.
“Guys were mad at me for a while, they were upset with me for a day or two, like six or seven guys who were just like, ‘Really, how could you do that?’ And then I’m getting phone calls from people everywhere, and my Twitter page is kind of in an uproar. But I took that stand for him, man, and I just hope at the end of the day that he appreciates that. Vick said.
Vick hopes Cooper “… understands the magnitude of it, because nobody else was going to step up and say anything. I could’ve said the same thing that 25 of my teammates were saying, and there was built-up anger.”
Riley Cooper did immediately text Vick a message of thanks for his support in the meeting room and in the news media.
But afterwards, Cooper told reporters “it was easy to forgive”
The result of Vick’ quelling the situation allowed Cooper to remain with the team, with the NFL and he ended up having a breakthrough season which ended with 47 receptions for 835 yards and 8 touchdowns. Which, in turn, got him a contract. A five-year, $25 million contract.
How are things now, between them?
“A couple of things transpired since that I dislike, and I’ll be honest with you, After he signed his contract, I sent him a text and I never got a text back, and that made me feel a certain type of way. But I’m not the type of guy who holds grudges.”
Anyone in Cooper’s shoes should owe Vick an eternal debt of gratitude.
“I’d have you on speed dial.” Vick said.
Vick recalled the scene of Cooper eating alone in the days after the video’s release, a pariah to black and white teammates both and that it took his Eagles two weeks to move past it.
“They might not have forgotten about it, but they forgave him,” Vick said. “We had guys talking about knocking him out, taking his head off, doing X, Y and Z to him on the field, and none of that happened, out of respect for myself, I think.”
“What people of my race understood was that I was trying to protect one of my brothers. I was trying to protect a teammate, a friend, and at the same time letting them know that, ‘Listen, there’s education behind this. This can be taken as an opportunity to educate so many people around the world to never let this happen to you. Change the language. Use a different word … because you never know who’s watching or who’s listening. So don’t offend anybody.'”
Vick said that he grew up in a culture allowing for liberal use of the N-word among African-Americans, and that he has occasionally slipped and used it in casual conversation with black friends. He’s trying to eliminate the word altogether.
But it was after Cooper’s vile slur went public that Vick showed as much leadership as any NFL quarterback has shown in any setting. Ever.
“It’s the best thing I’ve done as a professional athlete, absolutely, I handled it so my team could move forward, and I handled it so people could forget about it and not look at Riley a certain kind of way. I changed the whole dynamic of that situation, and that was a proud moment for me. … I was able to save a young man’s career, and that young man went on to have the greatest year of his career and get a contract that he probably never imagined he would get.”
Now with the New York Jets, Vick says he isn’t exactly thrilled with the way Cooper has treated him since.
Vick said he would greet Cooper with open arms when the two teams face off on Thursday night in Philadelphia.
Is the culture changing? The N* word is still prevalent today. Be it on social networks or out in public, the word has still not been stricken from everyone’s vocabulary. Until that happens incidents like this could happen again.
It should go the route of the one word you never call a woman.
Without even saying it, everyone reading knows exactly what it is.
Michel Vick is to be commended for his actions and his view towards a better tomorrow.
UPDATED: 9:42pm A spokesperson for Vick told NJ.com on Wednesday night that the quarterback and receiver have talked, and that Vick’s comments about Cooper were blown out of proportion.
Excerpts from ESPN interview.