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.
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 email@example.com.