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Shutdown Corner

Colin Kaepernick’s parents justifiably annoyed by hack article about their son’s tattoos

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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Before we get into this, we'd like to apologize in advance, because we're about to give you a link to perhaps the worst article in the history of sports. You can tell you're in for trouble when you see this at the bottom of the piece David Whitley wrote for Sporting News/AOL Fanhouse about Colin Kaepernick's tattoos:

David Whitley's opinion is not reflective of the opinion of AOL, Inc.

That's the kind of disclaimer TV networks use when they're about to show you infomercials featuring products with extra asbestos. And Whitley's article, which went up on Thursday, is as asbestos-y as anything you'll ever read. A brief example:

San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick is going to be a big-time NFL quarterback. That must make the guys in San Quentin happy.

Approximately 98.7 percent of the inmates at California's state prison have tattoos. I don't know that as fact, but I've watched enough "Lockup" to know it's close to accurate.

I'm also pretty sure less than 1.3 percent of NFL quarterbacks have tattoos. There's a reason for that.

NFL quarterback is the ultimate position of influence and responsibility. He is the CEO of a high-profile organization, and you don't want your CEO to look like he just got paroled.

I'm not sure what Kaepernick's tattoos have to do with his present or future as a starting NFL quarterback, though everybody knows that Kaepernick has been very successful with a small sample size of two NFL starts with the San Francisco 49ers. So, perhaps Whitley was looking for a different angle, and he didn't have time for stuff like interviewing, homework, or film study.

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But there are a few small issues with Whitley's take on things -- the entire idea that Kaepernick's ink somehow presages some sort of apocalypse for the 49ers franchise. And those issues were made clear when Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, Colin's adoptive parents, spoke with Robert Klemko of USA Today about Whitney's Internet drivel.

Perhaps the biggest problem, which Whitley could have figured out with five minutes of, y'know, work, is that many of Kaepernick's tattoos are actually Bible verses.

Whoops.

"It annoyed me," Teresa Kaepernick said. "You are categorizing this kid on something like tattoos? Really? Saying other guys are role models because they don't have them? Really? Some of these other guys don't have crystal clear reputations. That's how you're going to define this kid? It's pretty irritating, but it is what it is."

It's not just irritating. It's also irresponsible and stupid, but irritating is a good place to start. To me, the most annoying aspect of Whitley's piece is that he's clearly never met or talked to Kaepernick. I've done so a few times, starting with his week at the 2011 Senior Bowl, and it was pretty clear right away that he was an exceptional young man. Talented, respectful, hard-working, bright future. He's also done very well under Chris Ault and Jim Harbaugh, two of the most demanding coaches in any sport, at any level.

[NFL Skinny: Week 13 preview]

So, yeah -- let's talk about his body art. Nice going, Whitley.

"Instead of saying that Colin does all these great things and donates his time to children, this guy is going to make him out like a gangster," Rick Kaepernick said. "Really? I guess you just have to roll with the punches. Somebody asked me if I got mad about that. I said no. It's just a guy and his opinion. I could have an opinion about him, but I've never met the guy, so I don't know if my opinion would be right."

And that puts Rick Kaepernick several levels above David Whitley, to be sure. The most reprehensible part of Whitley's column comes in the second half, when the writer starts to display a subtle (and then not-so-subtle) racism when talking about tattoos in the NFL. Without it, the article is just harmless piffle. But when you get to stuff like this:

I realize not all NFL quarterbacks are pristine. Ben Roethlisberger has a "COURAGE" tattoo on the right side of his upper body. [Alex] Smith has one honoring his Serbian heritage. They can't be seen when the players put on their uniforms.

Then there are Michael Vick and Terrelle Pryor. Neither exactly fit the CEO image, unless your CEO has done a stretch in Leavenworth or has gotten Ohio State on probation over free tattoos.

That's what makes Kaepernick a threat to the stereotype. By all accounts, he's polite, hard working, humble and has never been to prison. He sounds more like a Tebow who can throw.

Gotcha. So, it's OK for white quarterbacks to get tattoos, because there's a greater good involved. Nice that Whitley got a Terrelle Pryor reference in there, too. He must have been wearing a Jim Tressel-approved sweater vest when he was writing this garbage.

Whitley also endorses the view of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who once basically insisted to Cam Newton that the franchise quarterback stay away from ink. Richardson was quite rightly pilloried for that act by most people -- where does he get off telling his players what to do with their bodies in a physical appearance perspective? -- but for guys like Whitley, Richardson is clearly doing God's work, keeping those unsavory characters from looking like they'd look if their "betters" weren't there to keep them in line.

If he becomes a starting quarterback in the NFL for a long period of time -- and I believe he has what it takes to do so -- Colin Kaepernick will be exposed to a lot of weird criticism. It goes with the territory. But Whitley's attack was personal, unprofessional, and ridiculous. AOL, Inc. owes Kaepernick an apology, and the apology should come from someone far more eloquent and coherent than the guy who got this ball rolling in the first place.

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