Before Thursday, I hadn’t heard of David Whitley. I now have. And my first impression of his work isn’t good.
In a possible attempt by a pair of dying brands to regain relevance in a world with more digital options than eyeballs to consume them, Whitley has penned a so-stodgy-it’s-edgy column for the AOL/Sporting News joint venture that criticizes Colin Kaepernick’s ink.
Crafted carefully (for the most part) to avoid legitimate complaints of racism, Whitley’s implicit message arguably could be boiled down thusly: He prefers NFL quarterbacks to be white, or to at least act white.
In the interests of clarity and fairness, Whitley didn’t say that. But that’s the sense I got while reading his words, including:
1. “He is the CEO of a high-profile organization, and you don’t want your CEO to look like he just got paroled.”
2. “For dinosaurs like me, NFL quarterbacks were our little Dutch boys.”
3. “It’s not just a white thing, I hope.”
I’m not even sure what the last sentence means. Reading the full column in one continuous chunk of words, it feels like he’s lamenting the disappearance of the good old days, when quarterbacks were not only tattoo-free but also pigment-free.
Regardless of Whitley’s conscious or subconscious motivations, Kaepernick’s parents aren’t happy that their adopted son has been compared to prison inmates.
“It annoyed me,” Teresa Kaepernick told USA Today. “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.”
“This guy has probably never talked to Colin,” Rick Kaepernick said. “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. Really?”
I’m no stranger to the criticism that flows in response to opinions that reflect old-school attitudes that come, for example, from the days when the husbands smoked cigarettes and read Life magazine while watching Walter Cronkite in the waiting room as their kids were being born. But the idea that quarterbacks shouldn’t have tattooed arms has no relevance to anything that would be remotely relevant to playing the sport of football, at any level.
Except for folks who prefer their quarterbacks to be fair-haired and fair-skinned, or at a minimum to behave as if they are.