Whitley’s Column on Kaepernick Harsh, but Fair

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.

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1 reply

  1. Great post Scott! So many angles to take here. I’m not going to label anyone racist or anything like that. This does have to do with sterotyping and prejudice. Have I judged people on how they look? Yes. We all have. I poked fun at how Brian Kelly and Brady Hoke look in my previous posts. But, it is how people BEHAVE along with those looks that matters. It can change your whole perspective of someone who is covered from head to toe in sleeves of tattoos or someone who has their pants sagging down to their mid thigh. The point here is everyone can shock you for better or for worse. Look at the guy’s character, look at his actions, look at his play on the field.

    This is also a social commentary on the perception of black males as a threat to the establishment: the white quarterback, the white world, etc. Plenty of white dudes out there with tat’s as well. And yes, I have heard the report that David Whitley has 2 adopted black daughters, but no matter. You can be black and cross the street too or hold your purse tighter if you see a black male looking “thuggish”.

    Tats are irrelevant in my opinion, especially when it comes to pro athletes or anyone in an entertainment field. I have a large tat on my back and for a female, I could be judged if someone saw it. But, it means something to me as I’m sure Colin Kaepernick’s tats mean something to him.

    Social mores are not TRUTHS. They are preferences. So Whitley doesn’t like tats, so what? Neither does my father, but I got one anyway. If Colin had a suit and tie on, you wouldn’t even know he had them.

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