San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick stepped into the national spotlight last season with his first NFL start against the Chicago Bears. Kaepernick exploded on to the scene on Monday Night Football, as he led the Niners on four straight scoring drives to begin his first start. The highlight of the night was his 57-yard strike to Kyle Williams that set up a 3-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis on the next play. He finished the night with 16 completions on 23 attempts for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
Kaepernick would spend the rest of his season “Kaepernicking” his way to super stardom, as he grabbed the starting position by the horns and came within five yards of leading the Niners to their sixth Super Bowl win. Kaepernick’s blazing speed and cannon-like arm made him one of the most dynamic and exciting young players in the league.
His exciting style play of has made him of one the most popular players in the league after just a half-season as a starter. His star power took an immediate rise. He has become a player that “can move the needle”, as his popularity has the power to make waves in the sports media world. This ability has made itself known clearly this offseason.
Kaepernick has seen his face splashed all over various forms of media this offseason. The first of which comes in the form of endorsements. He immediately picked up endorsements with various companies, such as MusclePharm and Jaguar. Most recently, he was featured in a commercial promoting Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football leagues. Kaepernick’s endorsements have pushed him to the forefront of popular sports athletes.
This new found popularity has led to Kaepernick being cast in constant spotlight, which has opened him to criticisms from all corners of media.
The first controversy came in the form of what has become known as “Hatgate.” During a Fourth of July party, Kaepernick was caught wearing a Miami Dolphins hat by a bystander. That person then took to social media and posted the pictures, which then created a firestorm amongst fans and the media. He then answered back with this tweet:
This the hat y’all mad at? I’m goin wear what I want regardless of what you think, all you need to… http://t.co/w33gKBxZek
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) July 6, 2013
This only added fuel to the fire, as he took even more heat from fans and the talking heads in the sports media. Fans and media in sports tend to be irrational when it comes to these situations and they turn nothing into something. This article on the SB Nation site, Niners Nation, does a great job of pointing out this irrational fanaticism.
The next big controversy came with the release of ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue. The theme of the magazine is to show off the bodies and physique of many of the top athletes from all over the sports world. In many of the pictures, the athletes are photographed nude to show off the true physique of the athlete.
Kaepernick was one of the athletes selected as one of the athletes to be featured in the issue. His appearance in the issue brought up a number of detractors who questioned his accepting the chance to appear in the issue. One of these people was his own teammate, Donte Whitner. Whitner said this in an interview CBS Sports’ Radio affiliate in Cleveland:
“To each his own. I don’t know about all the naked pictures and the lower body. I’m a little bit against that, but to each his own.”
It makes no sense as to why Kaepernick would be singled out for his appearance. The magazine features 20 different athletes, including Kaepernick’s own teammate Davis. It seems at times that Kaepernick’s own star power works against him, as the media is going to try and find anything to make a story out of him to drive web views or paper sales.
This recent rash of media exposure has brought up the question of “should Kaepernick slow down with putting himself out there and adopt a more conservative approach?”
I do not believe that Kaepernick has to stop being himself. He is just the victim of a slow media period with the NFL offseason, as news outlets just search for any little crumb of information. ESPN is a great example of this. They had a piece on Sportscenter that had Ron Jaworski and Herm Edwards debating about whether they should be debating about “hatgate” or not.
It really should not be an issue. Kaepernick is an excellent role model for young athletes. He is a driven and committed competitor. He is a lot like his head coach Jim Harbaugh. They both have a desire to do nothing but win football games. They have a passion for the game of football and fire that never burns out.
Kaepernick should be able to do what he wants to do, as long as his actions are appropriate and do not affect his performance on the field. He just needs to be aware that he is living in an era with a new openness and instant reaction due to social media.