Are Kenny Chesney fans racist? Or is Eagles wideout Riley Cooper, whose racial slur at a Chesney concert in June at Lincoln Financial Field was caught on a video that went public yesterday, an unrepresentative outlier whose actions are his and his alone and should not be used to stereotype a massive audience of country pop fans?
Chesney smartly spoke up on Thursday to argue strongly for the latter.
"I'm as shocked as anyone to see the video of Riley Cooper that's started circulating on the Internet," Chesney told ESPN. "I don't believe in discrimination in any form, and I think using language like that is not only unacceptable, it is hateful beyond words."
"To judge an entire audience by one loudmouth isn't fair . . . not to the NFL, not to the city of Philadelphia and that awesome crowd, not to my band and crew and certainly not to me, who believes music is about bringing people together for friendship and forgetting about the things in life that bring you down," Chesney said.
"The music I make is about living life, loving life and loving everybody — no matter who they are. That's how I was raised, and what someone else does or says doesn't reflect who I am or what my fans stand for."
At the June 9 tour stop at the Linc - an annual ritual for fans of his toes-in-the-sand Jimmy Buffet flavored faux-country pop, which this year also featured Eric Church and Kacey Musgraves - Chesney brought a bunch of Eagles, including Cooper and coach Chip Kelly, up on stage for the football themed "Boys of Fall."
And as Josh Foulck reported on Lehighvalleylive.com, Cooper acted out on stage, moreso than his teammates: "Cooper, wearing a plaid red sleeveless shirt and jean shorts, showed the most enthusiasm during the song, running around the stage slapping hands of fans and showing off some unique dance moves. At one point, Chesney missed singing a few lines as he watched Cooper in amazement. The former University of Florida wide receiver stayed on the stage after the rest of the Eagles exited, continuing to run around the stage and play to the crowd." The Inquirer's review of the show, by Brian Howard, is here.
Chesney, whose pre-show warm-up music is often heavy on hip-hop, told LZ Granderson of ESPN: "I don't know everything about every player who comes to our shows. We invite the teams in the places where we play, and I've found the guys from the NFL are some of the most inspiring people I meet all year. They give back to their communities, work with children, hospitals and various charities, as well as raising awesome families."