There has been an uproar in the sports world over a column that Sporting News writer David Whitley penned on Colin Kaepernick’s tattoos two days ago. Here it is for your viewing pleasure.
While I will not regurgitate all what Whitley had to say, I will offer my opinion on his column.
I did not have a problem with the message as much as I did with the tone. The message of Whitley’s column was that he is uncomfortable with – and hates – tattoos. I just wish he didn’t have to go “ultra-conservative old guy” in painting all of those young men with a broad brush.
I mean, look at the first two paragraphs in Whitley’s column:
“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.”
Really dude? Don’t go around proliferating stereotypes now. However, I did like how Whitley followed that general statement:
“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.”
Again, as much as I didn’t like Whitley labeling all young men with tattoos as thugs and criminals, I liked his intent. He’s not cool with people (men and women) wearing tattoos, and he is uncomfortable being around people of that ilk, regardless of race (which he made clear later in the column).
Whitley was pointing out that the position of quarterback in the NFL is akin to being a CEO of a company. You are the face of that company, so you have to represent it well.
Remember what Carolina Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson said to Cam Newton days before his team drafted him? I do. Hell, I was taken to task over why I agreed with Richardson.
There is a certain standard to being a QB in the NFL, period.
Anyone who works in the business world knows all about the importance of one’s appearance. It helps gets you in the door, and sometimes helps you stay for a while. I mean, would you show up at a Fortune 500 company sporting cornrows with pants hanging halfway off your ass? Would you also have tattoos all over your neck?
Of course not.
But if you try to keep it real, not only would you be REAL stupid, but you would be also REAL employed and REAL broke. Simply put, keeping it real doesn’t pay the bills.
Let’s be honest about something here: Whitley is not the first person – regardless of race – to feel that way about tattoos. Hell, my parents and late grandmother and most of my older relatives shared that same sentiment.
I remember telling my parents my plans after pledging Alpha Phi Alpha, that I was going to get a tattoo after crossing. I remember my mom looking at me side-eyed saying, “now why would you want to do that for?” My dad shook his head while reading his Bible in the den.
In short, it’s not necessarily a white/black/Latino thing – it’s a perception thing. And that was what Whitley was trying to point out, albeit clumsily.