Flyers

Riley Cooper apologizes, fined for racial epithet

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Riley Cooper apologizes, fined for racial epithet

Speaking somberly and dressed in street clothes, a pony-tailed Riley Cooper apologized before TV cameras and reporters Wednesday evening, telling a larger audience that he regretted his racist remark in a video that went viral earlier in the day.
 
“I want to [start] off by saying I’m extremely embarrassed, I’m extremely hurt, I’m extremely sorry for my actions,” the fourth-year Eagles wide receiver said. “I want to come up and tell you guys that.”
 
The video first appeared on website CrossingBroad.com and features an irate Cooper screaming, “I’ll fight every n----- here,” while attending a Kenny Chesney concert on June 8 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Cooper said his comment was directed toward an African-American security guard during a “confrontation.” The same website featured another video of an irate Cooper having an argument with an unidentified person who doesn’t appear to be African-American.

Cooper said the remark didn’t accurately portray his personality or views toward African-Americans and aren’t reflective of his upbringing.

“I don’t use that [word],” Cooper said. “Like I said, I was raised way better than that. I have a great mom and dad at home, and they are disgusted with my actions.”
 
Cooper hadn’t yet addressed the team when he spoke to reporters around 5:45 p.m. but had spoken with Eagles coach Chip Kelly and with owner Jeffrey Lurie and planned to address teammates later.
 
The team punished Cooper with an undisclosed fine and released a statement from Lurie that said the Eagles were “shocked and appalled by Riley Cooper’s words.”
 
“This sort of behavior or attitude from anyone has no role in a civil society,” the statement read. “He has accepted responsibility for his words and his actions. He has been fined for this incident."
 
The NFL also released a statement, saying that the league “stands for diversity and inclusion” and that Cooper’s actions were “wrong, offensive, and unacceptable.”
 
Cooper said he would accept any further consequences. The league declined to say whether additional punishment would be levied. A league source indicated that the NFL isn’t likely to further discipline the veteran wideout.  
 
Reactions to Cooper’s video poured in through social media. Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders tweeted his support to Cooper, while Marcus Vick, the younger brother of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, took to Twitter to issue a bounty on Cooper’s head (see story).
 
Asked how he would address his teammates, specifically black ones, Cooper said he would “tell them I’m extremely sorry.”
 
“I’m going to tell them exactly what I’m telling you guys,” he added. “There was a confrontation and I handled it extremely, extremely poorly.”

The former University of Florida receiver admitted that he had been drinking at the concert.
 
“But that’s no excuse for what I said and what I did,” he added.
 
Cooper said he was first made aware of the video Wednesday. He said no teammates were with him at the time, although a picture on the team’s official website shows he, Kelly, and several other teammates on stage with Chesney. In the picture, Cooper is wearing the same red tank top as he was in the video.
 
“This is kind of the lowest of the lows,” he said. “This isn’t how I want to be portrayed as. This isn’t the type of person that I am.”

In a matter of days, Cooper went from fighting for a starting spot to fighting to regain respect in the locker room.
 
On Sunday, one day after starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was lost for the season with a torn knee ligament, Cooper had become one of the leading candidate to step into a starting role.

Cooper, a Clearwater, Fla., native who was once drafted by the Phillies in the 15th round, spoke at Sunday’s practice at the Linc about carrying over his strong finish from the 2012 season after he missed the start of the year to recover from a fractured collarbone.
 
Now, as community tensions mount both locally and nationally, Cooper is in danger of being shunned by teammates and becoming a marked target by opponents.
 
“I’m going to tell them exactly what I’m telling you guys, how extremely sorry I am,” Cooper said. “I should have never said what I said. Most of the ones that know me, which excludes kind of the rookies coming in, they know what type of person I am.”
 
Cooper must also face the fan base of a city with a black population of 44.3 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau.
 
“I know no one in Philadelphia is happy with me right now,” he said. “I accept that. I just hope they see the true me and accept my apology. But I know it’s going to take a while.”

Flyers Talk podcast: The good, some bad and what's ahead for Canadiens series

Flyers Talk podcast: The good, some bad and what's ahead for Canadiens series

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra and Jordan Hall discuss the good, some bad and what's ahead following the team's tight Game 1 win over the Canadiens.

From the goalie matchup to something important to remember, let's dive in:

1:15 — Flyers fans were nervous in Game 1; that's a good thing

3:30 — Have the Flyers been the best team in the tourney so far?

5:00 — Biggest takeaways from Game 1, good and bad

9:15 — Did the Flyers get under Carey Price's skin?

15:20 — How concerned are we about that shaky second period?

19:45 — Joel Farabee, so impressive, so smart

 24:50 — What do we think about Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg and the defensive pairs?

 29:35 — Something to remember ahead of Game 2

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Phillies to retire slugger Dick Allen’s No. 15; Cooperstown next?

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AP

Phillies to retire slugger Dick Allen’s No. 15; Cooperstown next?

Dick Allen, the power-hitting former Phillie known for bashing baseballs over the wall, and, occasionally, the roof, at old Connie Mack Stadium, will have his uniform number raised onto the wall at Citizens Bank Park later this summer.

The team announced on Thursday that it would retire Allen's No. 15 on Sept. 3, the 57th anniversary of Allen's Phillies debut.

"Dick Allen burst onto the 1964 Phillies and immediately established himself as a superstar," Phillies managing partner John Middleton said in a statement. "His legendary performance on the field gave millions of fans lasting memories, and he helped cement my love for baseball and the Phillies as a young boy. The Phillies organization is thrilled to give Dick and his family this honor that recognizes his Hall of Fame-worthy career and his legacy as one of the greatest Phillies of all time."

Allen will become the eighth former Phillie to have his number retired by the club, joining Richie Ashburn (1), Jim Bunning (14), Mike Schmidt (20), Steve Carlton (32), Robin Roberts (36) and Roy Halladay (34). Grover Cleveland Alexander and Chuck Klein did not wear regular numbers, but their jerseys have been retired.

Allen is the only one of these players not to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, but that could change in December when he once again will be on the Hall of Fame's Golden Days ballot. The Golden Days committee considers those who played from 1950 to 1969. Allen fell one vote shy of making the Hall of Fame when the committee last voted in December 2014 and there has been considerable public support for his election this time. Schmidt has come out in support of Allen and Mark Carfagno, a former Veterans Stadium groundskeeper and close friend of Allen, has led a social media campaign.

Retiring Allen's number without his being a Hall of Famer touches on an interesting and growing debate surrounding the Phillies.

The team previously had an unwritten policy of only retiring the numbers of players who had been elected to the Hall of Fame. By retiring Allen's number at this time, the Phillies have left open the possibility of retiring the numbers worn by Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. None of the three have appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot yet and their candidacies are far from being slam dunks.

But as Phillies players, Rollins, Utley and Howard were all-time greats — the best shortstop, second baseman and first baseman, respectively, in club history. Their contributions helped the Phillies win five division titles, two National League pennants and a World Series from 2007-11. Rollins is the franchise's all-time hits leader and a former NL MVP. Utley was the Phillies' most popular player and the top offensive second baseman in the game until knee injuries robbed him of some of his prime years. Howard was an NL rookie of the year, an MVP and a home run and RBI king.

If the Phillies are going to consider non-Hall of Famers for number retirement, they also could one day look at Charlie Manuel, the World Series-winning manager who presided over the most successful period in club history, and Larry Bowa, a brilliant shortstop, World Series champion, and fan favorite who has contributed to the organization for decades as a player, coach, manager, adviser and ambassador.

Allen, 68, still works for the Phillies as ambassador. A native of Wampum, Pennsylvania (northwest of Pittsburgh), he signed with the Phillies as an 18-year-old in 1960. Four years later, the young third baseman hit .318 with 38 doubles, 13 triples, 29 home runs and 91 RBIs. The seemingly pennant-bound Phillies infamously collapsed down the stretch in that 1964 season, but Allen was named NL rookie of the year, an award that was later renamed in honor of one of his heroes, Jackie Robinson.

Allen spent nine of his 15 seasons with the Phillies and represented the club three times as an All-Star. He hit 204 of his 351 career homers with the Phillies. He swung a bat so big — 40 ounces or more in some seasons — that teammates thought it was a weighted bat used for warmups. Allen finished fourth in the NL MVP race in 1966 behind Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays. He hit .317 with 25 doubles, 10 triples, 40 homers, 110 RBIs and a league-leading .632 slugging percentage that season.

Allen twice led the American League in homers, slugging and OPS for the Chicago White Sox, including in 1972 when he was AL MVP.

On the all-time list, Allen ranks 43rd with a .536 slugging percentage.

In an 11-year stretch from 1964 to 1974, in an era of dominant pitchers, he was one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. He averaged 29 homers and 89 RBIs over that span while hitting .299 with a .940 OPS. Only Hall of Famer Hank Aaron's .941 OPS was better over that span. Allen slugged .554 from 1964 to 1974, second only to Aaron's .561. Only Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Aaron had more extra-base hits than Allen's 670 in that 11-year run.

Allen posted better numbers than many of his contemporaries who were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Allen, however, never received more than 18.9 percent of the necessary 75 percent for election to the Hall by the writers. He fell off the ballot in 1997.

Allen's Hall of Fame candidacy during his time on the writers' ballot was clearly impacted by some of the off-field baggage he'd accumulated as a player. As a young player, Allen was occasionally rebellious and insubordinate. He battled with teammates and managers and was a target for fans. He tried to force a trade from Philadelphia by writing messages in the dirt around first base at Connie Mack Stadium.

The passage of time has offered new and more empathetic perspectives on Allen's behavior and what he was going through at the time. He dealt with racism as a Phillies minor-leaguer in the South. The Phillies were the last team in the NL to integrate and Allen was the club's first African American star at a time of racial tension in America.

Allen is the first African American to have his number retired by the Phillies. Backup catcher Andrew Knapp had been wearing No. 15. He will switch to No. 7.

And now, with his number going up on the bricks beyond the centerfield wall at Citizens Bank Park, the only remaining question regarding Dick Allen's greatness as a player will be answered this winter when the Hall of Fame's Golden Days Committee considers his merits once again.

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