David Whitley has a Negative Stance on Colin Kaepernick’s Tattoos, but was He Being a Racist?

David Whitley has turned the internet on its head today with his latest column on AOL’s Sporting News website.  A lot of people, including myself, looked at it as a form of racism at first.  I have calmly let it sink in, read it again, and formed a more (at least I think) well rounded opinion.  When I first sat down to write about this, I came out swinging.  Now, I see what Whitley was trying to say and I understand how people got upset.  Hell, even I ended up on both sides of the argument.

Whitley’s target for his piece is the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick…or rather his tattoos.  Kaepernick, by all accounts that I have read is a really nice guy, got good grades in school and a really great teammate.  I remember a story about him skipping the rookie symposium to stay with his team and soak in as much as he could.  Sounds like a team player.  It appears though that Whitley decided to ignore all of that and form his opinions on Kaepernick by the tattoos he has on his arms.

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.

Harsh words there but he isn’t wrong.  It is no secret that a lot of inmates have tattoos.  It is also not a secret that a large percentage of the population, especially more recently, have some form of body art (myself included).  Clearly, like most writers, he was trying to find a clever and funny analogy but unfortunately failed miserably.  However, this analogy would have probably worked seamlessly if he was talking about Jeremy Shockey, whom he also mentions in his article.  I say seamlessly meaning that it wouldn’t have gotten any traction.

That’s not racism, that is just how people work.  If a white man points at a black man and says he looks like an inmate because of his tattoos then he is a racist, but if it is the other way around it is completely overlooked.  Don’t deny it or argue, you know it is true.  This would have blown up in Whitley’s face even if he just called him a thug, which is what a lot of people covered in tattoos are/were often thought of.  That’s not my opinion, that’s just how the older generations work.

He goes on to cite the middle aged women at his gym with barb wire tattoos on their biceps and how they make him cringe.  He explains he thinks the body is a temple and it should not be covered in graffiti.  That’s all well and good, but perhaps that was a little off topic?  There probably was no reason to mention anyone that wasn’t a professional athlete but then again, look at his choice for an analogy.  The line that took me from potential racism to what the article is really about, the point that Whitley is trying to get across, is when he brought up LeBron James.

I realize tattoos are ways to pay homage to your religion, children and motorcycle gang. I’m cool with LeBron James looking like an Etch A Sketch.

The entire premise of his article is laid out in those two sentences.  He doesn’t care about race, religion, ethnicity or even basketball.  He cares about football.  He wants the old days back when the quarterbacks were America’s poster boys and they could do no wrong.  He sees the inked up leaders of the team tarnishing the legacy that he remembers.  You know what that is called?  Being old and set in your ways.  Being a curmudgeon.  He essentially admits that in his article too, claiming he has tried to get on board with the fad but just can’t do it.

Forgive me, but I suffer from tattoo-ism. I sport no ink, and I don’t want any. I know that attitude qualifies me for an AARP card, and I’ve tried to get with it.

So he doesn’t like tattoos, thinks the quarterbacks in the NFL should be role models like the days of old and although he doesn’t agree with it, realizes he might as well accept it as being the norm.

To me, all of that sounds like a man wishing for his old NFL back.  A man not ready to face the future and the kids coming up that are completely tattooed before they graduate high school.  Even 10 years ago, it was considered cool if someone in your high school had a tattoo.  Today it is as normal as study hall.

So yeah, he should have thought a bit more when finding the analogy for his story but to go out and claim racism and demand he lose his job is a bit much.  But I do encourage you to read his article again before flying off the handle.  We do it too much in this country as it is.

If you don’t agree with me that is perfectly fine.  After all, I’m just exercising my freedom of speech…

See what I did there?

Read David Whitley’s full article from Sporting News here

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