If Cooper was hanging out at Vick's house playing xbox and said "damn, N$$&^ that was a sick move" I wouldn't be as upset. The same would apply if Vick said "Damn, cracker etc..."
Context makes a big difference in this situation. But I do feel that Cooper is a legit good guy as his apology seemed heartfelt. Hopefully, he turns this negative into some kind of a positive and it doesn't effect his career.
He's doing teh Manning Face
"Sticks and Stones" is an English language children's rhyme. It persuades the child victim of name-calling to ignore the taunt, to refrain from physical retaliation, and to remain calm and good-natured. It is reported to have appeared in The Christian Recorder of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where it is presented as an "old adage" in this form:
Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.
The phrase also appeared in 1872, where it is presented as advice in Tappy's Chicks: and Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature, by Mrs. George Cupples. The version used in that work runs:
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But names will never hurt me.
This sentiment is reflected in/reflects the common law of civil assault, which holds that mere name-calling does not give rise to a cause of action, while putting someone in fear of physical violence does.
However, it's because of that last paragraph that your initial point is refuted. The idea that a demeaning or derogatory term can be 'owned' by its target is not a belief I subscribe to.
We are better off letting this word 'die'. Rappers using this term, I would argue, keep it more prevalent in today's society ... Ultimately a words context should not be derived by the color of the speakers skin. That kind of thinking is inherently racist IMHO.