Not All Ink is Good Ink

“Did you see the article from AOL about Kaepernick’s ink?” was a text message I received from a friend late yesterday. I thought it was another one of the mainstream media’s we-need-a-new-angle-on-a-hot-athlete-so-hey-he-has-tattoos!-lets-talk-about-that pieces.

Man I was wrong.

When reading David Whitley’s column “Colin Kaepernick Ushers In An Inked-Up NFL Quarterbacking Era” I had a sitcomesque spit-take, all over his words. I warn you beforehand that you must resist the urge to throw your laptop across the room, spike your iPad or, as Whitley pictures the tattooed man, smash the shared correctional facility computer against the bars of the cell.

Gather your fellow inmates around and lets go through the piece. Starting at the top, the headline suggests that, Hey, the inked are taking over the NFL. Score six for us.

Then comes Whitely’s first line: “San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick is going to be a big-time NFL quarterback. That must make the guys in San Quentin happy.” Along with New York City and LA I’d say San Francisco is one of the three most-tattooed cities. Surely there are people in prison who have tattoos and San Quentin gets the 49ers as a local game but what’s the relation to Kaepernick?

He continues: “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.” Oh dear this is heading badly.

“I’m also pretty sure less than 1.3 percent of NFL quarterbacks have tattoos. There’s a reason for that. 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.” Yep, another tattooed person gets on top of the world for his ability and all Whitley can do is talk about his appearance. There are CEOs with tattoos, there are also politicians, professors, priests and all types of successful tattooed people. (Also he discusses four NFL quarterbacks who have tattoos, I think there may be a few more, but even if the number were four and teams hold between two-three quarterbacks and there are 32 teams that’s at least 5%). 

“The world will end when Tim Tebow shows up a tattoo parlor. It’s not just a white thing, I hope.” Yikes.

Now I’m going to stop here and point out that a host of reader comments attached to his piece accused him of racism, and while I’ll follow the guys with the pitchforks looking to poke him on account of racist, Whitley pointed out today: “If they were old enough to read, my two adopted African-American daughters would certainly be disappointed to find out I’m a racist.” While it may not be the original color of one’s skin that Whitley is prejudiced against, he surely does stereotype appearance.

Farther down: “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. That’s what makes Kaepernick a threat to the stereotype. By all accounts, he’s polite, hard working, humble and has never been to prison. He sounds more like a Tebow who can throw.” The first part is like when people make excuses for their grandparents being racist or sexist by saying, “They are set in their ways.” The second part is an admission that he is stereotyping. When given time to process his column and react to the comments, he didn’t apologize to Kaepernick or the tattoo community.

Whitley judges solely on appearance, which makes him grotesquely ugly regardless of what sees when he looks at his pristine skin in the mirror every morning.

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