Grant Cohn: Some 49ers grumbling about Colin Kaepernick taking spotlight
I object to Colin Kaepernick.
I believe some of his teammates do as well, although none would ever say so on the record. Football players say what they’re told to say.
I also believe some of Kaepernick’s teammates support him. Eric Reid and Eli Harold, for example, seem genuinely inspired by Kaepernick, while other teammates seem to resent him privately.
I believe the locker room is divided in spite of what you’ve heard.
Take this scene from the locker room Monday night. The 49ers had just beaten the Rams 28-0 in the season opener - big win - and a lot of players deserved recognition, ink, facetime, camera time - whatever you want to call it. But they hardly got any.
The center of attention in the locker room was Colin Kaepernick, who made himself available to reporters even though he’s the backup quarterback, he didn’t play until the fourth quarter and he didn’t throw a single pass.
I was not in the locker room after the game - I was writing in the press box. But Larry Krueger from KNBR was there for Kaepernick’s press conference, and Krueger said Tuesday on his radio show that the group of reporters surrounding the backup quarterback was seven people deep.
Krueger and I subsequently exchanged direct messages on Twitter about the postgame locker-room scene. He confirmed to me what he saw and heard. According to Krueger, an offensive lineman walked by and angrily muttered to the crowd of reporters: “There was a football game tonight.” Krueger did not reveal the offensive lineman’s name.
What was that offensive lineman really saying? That Kaepernick’s press conference was out of place. Wasn’t right. Kaepernick was not supposed to be the event. The national anthem was not supposed to be the event. Kaepernick’s cause, however worthwhile, was not the event. The event should have been the football game. The win. The players who performed and risked injury. The team.
I understand the offensive lineman’s frustration with Kaepernick and the media. In a sense, the media enables Kaepernick to dominate the coverage, because the media constantly rushes to interview him in spite of the context.
But I don’t blame the media, and neither should you. A reporter doesn’t create the news - he or she merely writes about the news, and the news is Kaepernick. Not the 49ers.
The 49ers are just another NFL team that probably won’t make the playoffs this season. Nothing special about them. Their news cycle can’t even begin to compete with Kaepernick’s, which seemingly never ends. Every time he speaks, he creates national news. And he knows it.
I blame Kaepernick.
He never should have held that press conference Monday night in the first place. When the reporters walked over to him, the local reporters and those national TV guys from CNN and FOX, he should have said: “Look, I know you’re here to interview me about my causes and I appreciate that. But I politely decline to speak. I don’t want to take any focus away from my teammates, who just won a big game. They were outstanding. Tonight should be about them.”
Then Kaepernick could have said, “If you still want to interview me, let’s meet in the locker room on Wednesday and I’ll give you as much time as you need.”
Better yet, Kaepernick should have said he’ll rent a conference room at a local hotel and hold weekly press conferences on social activism, police brutality - whatever he wants to talk about.
He needs to stop using the 49ers’ postgame media availability as the platform for his message. Because his message is bigger than football. It makes football seem trivial and beside the point.
In the grand scheme of things, football might be trivial and beside the point. But it’s not trivial to Kaepernick’s teammates or coaches. Football is their passion, their life. It’s fair for them to care more about the team than the non-football-issues Kaepernick cares so deeply about.
I imagine Kaepernick will not take my advice. I imagine he’ll continue to hold locker room press conferences on social justice after games in which he didn’t play. And I imagine the grumblings from other players will grow louder and louder.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.