Here is a link to my Sunday column about Colin Kaepernick. The full text runs below:

Colin Kaepernick, who will play for the first time today in Levi’s Stadium, thinks people are picking on him. I guess he means media people like me. He recently told Bleacher Report some people are prejudiced against him.

Here’s what he said about so-called unfair criticism directed his way: “Stereotypes, prejudice, whatever you want to call it. I think between the tattoos, the way I dress, the way I talk, people don’t think it should go together with a franchise quarterback or someone that’s leading the team or representing the organization. At the end of the day, you have to look at, ‘Are they knowledgeable? Are they doing their job?’ Not what their appearance is.”

Kaepernick’s speech is a serious speech and I take it seriously. You should, too. Are people, especially in the media, prejudiced against him because of how he looks and talks? Understand, “prejudiced” is a loaded word in our culture. I assume Kaepernick used the word with full knowledge of its impact.

I admit I once was put off by how he dresses — the hat backwards, the baggy jeans. I have written it’s not how a franchise quarterback presents himself. I was wrong to write that. It’s a generational misunderstanding. I realize that. People Kaepernick’s age have a different style than older players — they don’t show up in suit and tie after a game like Peyton Manning. How Kaepernick presents himself through his clothes is his business and does not reflect negatively on his character or what kind of person he is.

I get all that. It took me time to get it, but I get it. I also acknowledge that Jim Harbaugh dresses casually — hat backwards sometimes, khakis, 49ers cap and sweatshirt. He is no Tom Landry, always in a suit. He is a first-rate coach and his clothes mean nothing.

I never have written about Kaepernick’s tattoos, if memory serves me. I don’t think about his tattoos one way or another. Others have written about his tattoos.

I have serious problems with how Kaepernick talks. I want to be careful here. I have no problem with his accent or his dialect or his choice of words. They’re all fine by me. In fact, I don’t actually have a problem with how he talks. I have a problem with how he does NOT talk. This is not a prejudice. This is a criticism resulting from his behavior in the real world.

When it comes to talking to the media, he is an ungenerous soul. I know what you are thinking: “Why should I care how he talks to the media?”

You should care because he talks to you through the media. We are the conduit to you. After games, even after wins, he speaks in monosyllables. Although he is intelligent, you would think he is a moron. You would think he achieved language only yesterday. He speaks like this on purpose. It is a big “screw you” to the media, to you, to everybody.

I guess I have a prejudice against that kind of talking. I do not approve of Colin Kaepernick’s reprehensible manners. I do not think a franchise quarterback should behave boorishly. Better franchise quarterbacks than Kaepernick did not and do not behave boorishly: Manning, Joe Montana, Steve Young, John Elway.

There is no excuse for Kaepernick to be intentionally obnoxious. His parents came to the press conference the very day he was drafted. It was a lovely family tableau. I liked his parents and I liked him. I bet every reporter in that room felt like I did. I experienced Kaepernick as a refreshing personality — he may still be to family and friends. But he soon acted rudely whenever we (the media) met with him. For no good reason. He lost all the goodwill we happily granted him. How foolish. How unnecessary. How un-franchise quarterback.

This had nothing to do with clothes or tattoos. This had to do with horrible judgment on his part.

Sometimes, he talks to national media — as he did in the Bleacher Report story, for which he spoke to NFL quarterback-turned-columnist Chris Simms. You see the glow in his face and you hear the glow in his voice. He really does have a personality. He really can speak with intelligence and charm. When I hear that, I think he’s a phony. He’s nice only to people who can help him. I don’t like people who act like that. I like people who have one personality no matter who they’re talking to.

Kaepernick is being disingenuous when he talks about people being prejudiced towards him. He wants you to believe people criticize his play because of prejudice.

Not true.

We criticize his play because of how he plays. His play deserves criticism. He can’t face this fact — can’t face the truth. He wants to weasel out of fair criticism by crying prejudice.

You want to know where Pro Football Focus ranks Kaepernick among current quarterbacks?


Did Pro Fooball Focus rank Kaepernick in the bottom half of NFL starters because of his hat or tattoos, because of prejudice? Please.

Pro Football Focus ranked him on performance. They ranked him 17th because he earned that ranking. The 49ers brought in quarterback teacher George Whitfield this preseason. Whitfield works with all the Niners quarterbacks. He also works one-on-one with Kaepernick.

I saw Whitfield working with Kaepernick on throwing over a defender to a receiver — just where Kaepernick flopped in last season’s NFC championship game. Hello, Richard Sherman. This was remedial work, beginner’s work. Kaepernick needs to improve on the basics. That observation is not prejudice or meanness. It is fact.

I get the feeling Kaepernick doesn’t want to be criticized for his play. If we criticize his play, it’s because of his tattoos. Weak.

A franchise quarterback does not play the poor-me card. A franchise quarterback takes responsibility for his play. A franchise quarterback does not deflect his deficiencies into side issues or irrelevant issues.

This blatant grab for pity is a crummy way to start the season.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn atlowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.


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  1. Jason

    It is not a generational thing. Russell Wilson is courteous and represents his team well. Wilson is not petulant, rude, curt, or condescending. I do not find Kaepernick particularly likable and his play on the field does not help his cause.

    August 17th, 2014 1:23 am

  2. Dennis

    “He lost all the goodwill we happily granted him. How foolish.” I am not sure he needs you to grant him anything and there-in lies your problem. He is the franchise quarterback, on a premier NFL franchise. He makes national commercials and he just signed a multi-million dollar contract. Life seems to be going just fine for him. I would suggest you probably need find out how you lost his goodwill. This blatant grab for pity because he doesn’t make nice with the local media is a crummy way to start the season. But here it is and I for one am very excited.

    August 17th, 2014 8:00 am

  3. Streetglide

    I don’t think he played a “poor me” card here. He was a real dick up until this year. Seems like he has gone out of his way to be approachable since he signed his contract. Positive reinforcement might be the order of the day Lowell.

    Main thing is how he plays because the defense is going to blow this year, at least for the first half of the season. Have fun getting to the game.

    August 17th, 2014 8:06 am

  4. mike

    I feel sorry about CK’s media issues because when I saw several of his media interviews while he was playing at Nevada-Reno, you saw nothing of the personality or demeanor his currently is portraying. In fact, I doubt if Coach Ault ever would have allowed any of his players to address the media in such a manner. I sincerely doubt CK’s adopted parents in Turlock brought him up in a manner which he currently projects. Therefore, the real question is what occurred in CK’s life or environment to influence this change in how he handles or reacts to the media? Is it a reflection of his own beliefs and underlying tones that finally have surfaced? Is his media manner a reflection of the influence of an agent? Is his media manner a reflection of the influences of his head coach, who we all know is not a fan of the media and likes to be a difficult interview? In sum, all I know is that it is a disappointment to me for a player to conduct himself with the media the way CK does. Also, despite all of those readers who say his dress is just a generational thing, what would everybody be saying if lawyers walked into court to represent a client or clients dressed like CK? Everybody would be saying that the attire is inappropriate. Well, CK is a professional, as in a professional football player, and he should realize that he not only represents himself in the public and with the media but also represents his family, his organization, his teammates and the National Football League. Goodell always talks about the brand of the NFL. CK is a brand, too. He also is his own business and corporation. Play like a professional. Speak like a college educated professional. Dress and act like a professional, not like a gangster rapper because that is what you are not!

    August 17th, 2014 9:24 am

  5. mike

    Remember, not too long ago, the commissioner of the NBA introduced a dress code for the players because he, too, was embarassed and tired of the manner in which the players were appearing at media conferences and the poor images they were projecting. Maybe it is high time Goodell steps in and says there has to be a league dress code when representing the league and your team in the public and in front of the media. After all, the NFL is a multi-billion dollar corporation, and one way to clean up the image of the corporation is to impose some standards. If the NBA can do it, why not the NFL?

    August 17th, 2014 10:14 am

  6. Michel

    Sure tell its football season. Lowell and his grudges here we come

    August 17th, 2014 10:22 am

  7. B-Rad

    The last player that I can recall being revealing and forthright in an interview
    was Jeff George.

    The Raiders brought in George for the 1997 season when he threw 29 TDs
    and 9 INTs, although the Raiders finished with their usual 4-12 record.

    During the 1998 season, it was news to Al Davis when George said on KNBR
    that he thought he was finished for the season because of a groin pull.
    It was reported that Al was very much less than enamored by George’s comment
    and George was gone by the next year, though I don’t know whether George’s
    statement influenced Al, but we all know Al.

    I don’t typically listen to any current player interviews. Pablum is pablum
    and not worth my time.

    Note to CK: One word answers or 500 word discourses are both fine by me,
    I won’t be listening.

    August 17th, 2014 11:09 am

  8. htwaits

    Much of what Colin was referring to probably comes from his willingness to engage fans in social media by “friending” those who attack him. Maybe if you were up on this new feature in the life of well known professional athletes, you might not take his latest comments as solely directed at the local press.

    But, being your “old” demeaning self, here we go again. Enjoy the season.

    August 17th, 2014 11:46 am

  9. Real Neal

    I am so uninterested in what any professional athlete or head coach has to say unless you are talking about Derek Jeter, the man has class. I don’t care what Kaep, Vernon Davis or even Jim Harbaugh has to say. I invest my time and sometimes money in the game and that’s it. These three guys and many more are just pompous idiots.

    August 17th, 2014 5:49 pm

  10. Randy

    At the end of the day, Colin will be a victim of his tired act with the media. He comes off as a petulant child. What happened to addressing other people with respect and good manners? He should be forced to sit and watch how Tom Brady conducts himself in an interview. Spending your time fighting the media is a waste of energy. If you follow him on Twitter, he “re-tweets” what others tweet about him when they say something positive, like if he attended a charity event. What is that? Talk about a “humble brag.” He needs some new advisors because this is not going to end well if he keeps on his current path. Media criticism of him is result of his on the field play. Maybe if he put all his time into learning how to go through his progressions or deliver in the red zone, these outside “non-football” issues would take care of themselves.

    August 17th, 2014 6:33 pm

  11. Dr. Feelgood

    Cohn Zone- what exactly did Kaepernick say? I haven’t seen any of the type of comments you’ve attributed to him posted anywhere recently.
    I mentioned previously that CK seemed much more mature and at ease in interviews, seemed actually to be at ease and giving more well crafted responses to questions. So far this season, from only what I’ve read, he has abandoned the “poor me” approach and displayed a more positive and forward thinking outlook.
    I’m interested to know when this “backslide” has occurred. It is very disappointing to hear.

    August 17th, 2014 11:18 pm

  12. MJ

    The “generational dress” is a cop-out and does not hold true. As someone mentioned earlier, you see Russell Wislon in his press conferences, post game, almost always in some sort of button down and a blazer/suit. Same can be said of Andrew Luck, RG3, Cam Newton. And all 4 of those men are YOUNGER!! than Kaepernick. Did we ever see Alex dress that way? They are only 3 years apart, hardly a generation gap there. Colin Kaepernick is 26, turning 27 this November, he shouldn’t get any slack for his age because he’s hardly young i this game and there are 4 qb’s I listed above, of various ethnicities and backgrounds, who present themselves much better than Colin has ever.

    Fact is that Colin is a hyper-sensitive person. He is extremely over-rated as a qb, fact by his contract making him the highest paid QB in the NFL this season (if everything is met) yet his performance as a QB ALONE is no where near top 5, 10, or even 15. He gets extreme love from the national media and fans.

    The fact that he favorites negative criticism says a lot about his character and his need to prove them wrong, which to me is a very poor way to deal with that. He should instead be brushing it off and laughing it off because it’s the words of people who have nothing good to say in their life and instead “troll” on someone. I can’t say for certain but did Jackie Robinson save every piece of hate mail…or MLK…or Kennedy or Ali or did Young save all the negative articles written about him how he would never surpass Montana…or countless other scenarios? I highly doubt it. Colin needs to count his blessings and realize he lucked out that he was drafted to this team and not a team like the raiders, and realize that he should be focused on game planning and film instead of worrying about criticism and strength training.

    August 17th, 2014 11:20 pm

  13. Dr. Feelgood

    Following up my post (should have done my homework!)
    Here’s what CK said post-game.
    Seems very straight forward.
    Where is the “grab for pity” in his comments?

    QB Colin Kaepernick
    Press Conference – August 17, 2014
    San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos

    Was the team a little bit off today?

    “Yes, I think so.”

    What do you think was off?

    “One thing here, one thing there. If you have one person mess up on a play, it ruins the whole play.”

    How did it feel to finally play at the new stadium?

    “It was great to be out there for the first time at the new stadium.”

    Players like to say that they kind of feed off the crowd a lot. How did you sense the crowd’s energy? Was it loud, was it energetic?

    “It was a great atmosphere. I think we will have a lot more noise here than at Candlestick from what it sounded like today.”

    Going into the second preseason game, what do you say some of the struggles are and what do you guys need to work on moving forward?

    “We just have to clean things up. We have too many mistakes.”

    During the game you are able to watch some of the younger guys like Bruce Ellington for example. What are you seeing from some of those younger wide receivers and first, what do you see from him that is standing out?

    “Bruce is making plays and he is making catches when he has the opportunity. He is also trying to get yards after the catch. As a quarterback, that is something you like seeing.”

    Colin, you played three series and strung together some first downs, ultimately how do you feel about the way the offense has performed when you’ve been on the field?

    “I think we have been doing pretty well. I should have hit a few more throws today but I think our offensive line is playing well and our running backs have run well. We just have to finish our drives off.”

    Is there a common thread why you haven’t finished those drives off?

    “No. We just haven’t finished the last few plays of the drive.”

    You had that deep throw to Lloyd there. Was that the read the whole way and did you think you hit it when you threw it?

    “Everything is coverage based. He had the one-on-one matchup and I wanted take the shot and see what he could do with it.”

    There has been some outside criticism of Gabbert at the last few games. You are in the quarterback room with him and you are on the practice field with him. What are your feelings about the way he is performing?

    “That is the great thing about being a player; I don’t have to worry about that. I do everything I can to try and help him. He is working hard and he is trying to make sure he is doing everything to go out and perform well.”

    You mentioned noise. Is there anything else different that you noticed being on the field versus Candlestick or what would you say are the biggest differences?

    “I think once you get out there and you are playing, a field is a field. I mean at home you are going to have noise in your favor, and away you are going to have noise against you. I think we will have a little bit more noise in our favor here.”

    August 18th, 2014 12:04 am

  14. Donald

    The thing that drives me nuts about lowell is if people don’t act the way he feels they should act they are in the wrong. Here’s what I tell my 5 year old lowell. “Let it go”. You seem like you whine an aweful lot for a grown man. I don’t let my kids whine that much. You should be ashamed.

    August 18th, 2014 2:18 am

  15. KezarMike

    Means absolutely nothing to me what he says to the press or doesn’t say or how he says it. TDs … yards …. comps ….. wins …. all that matters to me. Same with Greg Roman ….. very friendly and articulate and polite coach ….. but count me as not a big fan. Back in the day Willie Mays and before him Ted Williams had little to say to the press …. liked the way they hit though.

    August 18th, 2014 7:36 am

  16. CohnZohn

    Dr. Feelgood, I quoted the comments in my column.

    August 18th, 2014 8:19 am

  17. mike

    You aren’t wrong to expect kaepernick to dress and act the part for the occasion. It is what your culture expects you to do. You don’t go to church in a dirty tee shirt and sandals, you dress and act appropriately. Kaepernick is either a fool or following horrid advice and as his act get thin its going to cost him. Part of his huge salary is paid for how he behaves off the field. Like it or not. His lack of manners is going to cost him more money than most of us make in a lifetime.

    August 18th, 2014 9:41 am

  18. Mark M

    The first thing I thought about when I saw that Kap interview were some of the comments I’ve read here. The obvious dislike over his appearance has been all over this blog. But I’m glad you admit your mistake on judging his generational appearance.

    QB polls like the one you reference are as meaningless as Jaws claiming he could be the best ever. Another useless pre-season conversation that will probably seem silly in a few months. Kap probably needs to be a little less sensitive about such things. Thicker skin will serve him well in his job. But it’s a truly great thing to realize that some of that criticism says more about the criticizer than the subject. That is a big step in learning not to take such things so personally.

    August 18th, 2014 10:24 am

  19. Folkwolf101

    This article hits it on the head. Today, athletes can put up facebook pages and tweet their every thought, and in that way they can communicate with their fans. But, verily, the main communication to us is through the media. We only get the quotes and statements, and so very often if Kaep is grunting monosyllabic answers to thoughtful questions and doing so with a snarky tone. He probably thinks he has reason to be defensive against the media and doesn’t understand that through the media he can tell his own story or at least project he much prefers over the one that portrays only his hostility.

    August 18th, 2014 11:06 am

  20. Ron

    The media went after Kap like vultures; with questions about his adoption and his turtle and his tatoos and basically ruined their relationship with the otherwise open and naive Kap. I am sure that Harbaugh gave his quarterback whisper instructions to only say the shortest and simplest answers so not to temp the vultures seeking new blood. The bay area media has already proved itself to by non trustworthy with stories like the TMZ story in FLA that was blatant bull…. Kap is smart by throwing it back in your face Cohn…

    August 18th, 2014 2:46 pm

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