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Is Chip Kelly racist?

Richard Sherman is one of several criticizing the Eagles for a double standard -- releasing DeSean Jackson and keeping Riley Cooper. Is this racist?

Rob Carr

---------Updated March 10, 2015 at the end of the article---------------

I respect Richard Sherman a lot. His infamous interview and trash-talking never bothered me; in my opinion, his opponents should ice up their egos. Sherman is clearly a thoughtful and very smart guy as well as a great player.

So when he wrote an essay at The MMQB criticizing the NFL and the Eagles for a double standard, I paid attention. Sherman defends players like himself and DeSean who continue to hang around the guys they grew up with in bad neighborhoods -- the two played Little League together -- and points out that Riley Cooper got a brief timeout and a new contract after being videotaped yelling the N-word at a public concert.

"If it’s true the Eagles terminated his contract in part because they grew afraid of his alleged "gang ties," he writes, they did something worse than wrong. That's a strong argument, with one major flaw; that 'if.' The accusation of a double standard is based on a huge chain of if's, starting with that one. Without that first IF, the whole thing falls apart.

IF the Eagles released DeSean because of gang connections -- but there's no evidence they did. Wait, wasn't he released right after that story? True, but that only matters IF the team leaked information to, instead of the major newspapers they work closely with, and also IF that was the real reason Jackson was released. (More likely, the story convinced them that their already failing efforts to trade DJax were a waste of time, and they thought it might provide some cover from the firestorm they knew would follow.)

All of these IFs seem far-fetched. wrote about Jackson throwing gang signs a month earlier, and several websites noted it right after his posturing at D'Angelo Hall in the Washington game. Eliot Shorr-Parks didn't need a leak from the Eagles to put this together; the article was based on an on-the-record interview with an LAPD detective. That's not something a team can produce. I don't know why Sgt. Joe Friday there was so gabby to a reporter, but it sure wasn't because Howie Roseman asked him to.

Also, the Eagles were trying to unload Jackson a year earlier, from the moment Andy Reid left. The team isn't talking but insider Brian Dawkins, who played with DeSean, said straight out on 97.5 that it was not about gangs.

"No, it was all the other things that have happened over the time that he’s been here and the things he has not corrected in his character, some of the things that he does within the building with coaches and the like they were concerned about."

Still, this double-standard is a serious allegation that is worth considering. At first glance, you can't miss the fact that Chip Kelly, Howie Roseman, and Jeffrey Lurie are white, and they dismissed a black player with unusual finality and lack of discussion after keeping Cooper. So, is this a double standard? I don't think so.

As for the Eagles track record, Geoff Mosher did a detailed breakdown of the team's record in disciplining black players, and lists tons of punishments much closer to Riley Cooper's than to DeSean Jackson's. (And remember, misbehavior was documented for all of these other players, but has not been even alleged against DeSean.) Start with Mike Vick. No team has taken more criticism for coddling a player than the Eagles have for supporting Vick, not even Miami with Richie Incognito. And Vick rewarded them by becoming a team leader and model citizen.

Then there's Jason Peters (arrested twice as an Eagle, recently extended), and LeSean McCoy, and Juqua Parker, Akeem Jordan, Mike Patterson, Stacy Andrews, and King Dunlap.

OK, that's Jeff Lurie. But what about Chip Kelly? All this DeSean drama started when he showed (not really, but go with me here for the sake of argument). So is this release proof that Chip favors white players? After all, he came to Philly from Oregon and New Hampshire, which are 2.0% and 1.4% black, respectively.

In a word? No. I recently wrote at length about Kelly's discipline of players at Oregon. The striking thing is that he only dismissed players after repeated arrests and multiple chances to clean up -- which supports the idea that DeSean's exit was for failing to obey coaches, not because of misbehavior.

If Chip was racist, it would show up in his player competitions. Kelly has had 3 quarterback competitions in his 5 years as a head coach; each one pitted a white QB against a quarterback of color. What were the results?

-- Darron Thomas vs. Nate Costa (the white incumbent loses to the upstart black QB)

- Marcus Mariota vs. Bryan Bennett (the white incumbent loses to the upstart Samoan QB)

- Nick Foles vs. Michael Vick -- (Vick wins back his starting job, despite many fans and writers urging that he go with the younger QB.)

The contrast between Riley Cooper's case and DeSean Jackson's is interesting, but not for the reasons people are saying.

Cooper's sin was off the field. That puts him in the same category as Shady, Jason Peters, and the Oregon players to whom Kelly gave a second chance. DeSean dogged it on field in 2011, while pushing for a new contract, and didn't even try to chase down Shaun Prater after he intercepted Foles' pass in the Vikings game, then shoved and yelled at teammates and coaches on the sideline. I suspect that THIS is what bothered Kelly most. You put yourself apart from the team during a game, and the team might put itself apart from you.

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Look at how Kelly handled the Riley Cooper matter. He did NOT defend him. Kelly called a team meeting and didn't talk, but gave everyone else a chance to air it out. He stepped back, and deferred to the team. It was Jason Avant and Michael Vick who stepped forward and forgave the receiver. Not everyone got huggy, but the team stayed together and may even have bonded a bit as a result.

In contrast, DeSean set himself apart. He didn't focus on the team, didn't work out with teammates, stayed aloof and did his diva thing. Avant and Vick, always leaders, were the guys who helped manage DeSean in his conflicts with the coaches, but they're gone now, and so is DJax. No one on the team seems particularly bothered. The rest have no trouble with getting sleep, eating healthy, drinking smoothies and working out together at Novacare in the off-season. Whatever their race.


Update 3/10/2015:

Since Tra Thomas and Stephen A. Smith (in his cowardly, hinting way) brought this issue up again, here are a couple of updates.

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