Kenny Chesney has sold more concert tickets than any other artist in the past 10 years—and he'd like to keep the good times coming.
The country music superstar told ESPN that he's as "shocked as anyone" by the video that hit the Internet this week of NFL player Riley Cooper using the N-word during a Chesney concert in June, a slur that the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver admitted yesterday was directed at a black security guard.
"All I do is get off my bus and try to give the fans all the heart and passion I got," Chesney said. "That's where it starts and stops; that's all I think about."
On the video, Cooper is heard saying, "I will jump that fence and fight every n---er in here." The 25-year-old football star publicly apologized Wednesday at a press conference, saying he was "ashamed and disgusted" with himself.
He has been fined an unspecified amount by the Eagles, with team chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie saying they were "shocked and appalled" by Cooper's behavior.
"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," Chesney also told 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."
The June 8 show in question at the Eagles' home stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, was also attended by a bunch of Cooper's teammates and head coach Chip Kelly, but Cooper maintained that he was not with any of his fellow team members when he had his altercation.
"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 continued.
"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."
Cooper had said that he was planning to meet with his teammates last night and the Eagles issued the following statement today: "In meeting with Riley yesterday, we decided together that his next step will be to seek outside assistance to help him fully understand the impact of his words and actions. He needs to reflect. As an organization, we will provide the resources he needs to do so."
Kelly also said at a press conference Thursday that Cooper's spot on the active roster is not in jeopardy.
"I think some players that know him better than other players, I think maybe they've moved quicker," said the former University of Oregon leader, who is gearing up for his first season coaching in the NFL. "Again, this isn't a situation that you put underneath the rug and say, 'It happened, let's move on. We have to get ready for Thursday's practice.' That certainly isn't the mood or the feeling around this building."