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Colin Kaepernick and the national obsession with his body art
San Francisco 49ers quarterback and Turlock native Colin Kaepernick enjoys being a marked man with tattoos, that is. - photo by 209 file photo

Colin Kaepernick has had one amazing year, and his success on the football field is only a fraction of the reason why. Since taking the reins of San Francisco’s offense for his first start on Monday Night Football and snowballing that performance into a Super Bowl XLVII run, the fleet footed and rocket armed quarterback from Turlock has been experiencing a whirlwind of national attention, both for better and for worse.

Kaepernick has been experiencing the territory that comes with success. He’s secured several endorsement deals. He’s rubbed elbows with the First Lady, musical superstars, and sporting legends. His fan base has exploded to an almost surreal level, and again, his playing abilities are only a small part of why.

Though the third-year quarterbacking sensation and his 49ers will be marked men this season for their success last year, Kaepernick has been getting a lot more attention for being a marked man — tatted up that is. He’s seen as a new generation of quarterback for both his versatility and his appearance. But the truth is there’s nothing new about an athlete donning body art.

Tattoos have been socially acceptable for some time now with pro players of all sports, musicians, actors, and even teenagers getting and showing off their ink. So what’s the big fuss surrounding Kaepernick? Well, he’s a NFL quarterback, and for some there’s still a mythos surrounding the position.

No matter the thousands of yards he might gain on the gridiron, Kaepernick will always be associated with the million jabs of a needle he’s endured to modify his body. Regardless of all the sweat and blood that might soak into his uniform, he will have fans, and detractors, who will always focus on his ink soaked skin.

But for all the scrutiny aimed his way for his personal preferences, Kaepernick has experienced an overwhelming show of support from those who don’t hold onto antiquated perspectives. While articles that compare him to a prison inmate might be annoying, Kaepernick enjoys being a marked man. Its part of his quest to break the stereotype of what a quarterback should be; how they should play and how they should look.

“I don’t want people to think you have to look a certain way or be a certain mold to be a quarterback,” Kaepernick said earlier this year at his first annual Against All Odds Golf Tournament—named after his chest piece tattoo.

“To me, tattoos are a way of people being able to express themselves and to have other people look at them and get a little insight into who they are, without ever having to say a word to them.”

That’s how Kaepernick would like it, to live in a world where his tattoos aren’t such a big deal, to be able to express himself however he sees fit without having to justify or explain himself. But that’s not the world we live in. In this world—one that is obsessed with celebrity and starved for every detail about the lives of high profile individual, his full sleeves, inked chest piece, and back mural will continue to spark discussion and be a hallmark of his national identity.

If that is to be the case, it might be a good idea to focus on the content of Kaepernick’s tattoos and not just their existence. The biblical verses and motifs that reflect his past and represent his path to personal and professional success have the potential to inspire, not alienate.

Faith. Against all odds. My gift is my curse. These words that rest on Kaepernick’s flesh are common themes in athletics and in life. If anything, they represent his relevance in today’s game and the continued progression of the quarterback position, not the degeneration of it.

209 staff reporter