By Paul Fernandez
If you needed any more proof that the NFL is king in this country, look no further than what qualified as “news” during the July doldrums known as the offseason.
If you follow the sport, you’ve likely heard that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a rising star in the NFL, was spotted wearing a Miami Dolphins hat during a Fourth of July party and pics of the transgression set off a debate throughout social media; arguments about loyalty, individualism, common sense and the like. Kaepernick took to Instagram and posted a photo of himself with the infamous cap along with a defiant response to the initial criticism he was getting for his choice in accessories. Fans commented/tweeted their reactions with such fervor, the story made the homepage of NFL.com and various talking heads on ESPN weighed in on “Hat Gate” over the last week. Kaepernick later posted a picture of himself with 49er gear in an attempt to calm the football-deprived masses.
So from a PR perspective, what can be learned here? The Bleacher Reports’ Tom Smeaton wrote a post on the topic a few days ago and brings up some great points: “…the real story behind Kap’s cap is in the public eye, regardless of personal opinion on the matter. One way or another, people seem to care about the story, and in the modern market, that’s what drives the news.”
In other words, even if you’re right, you’re wrong… at least in the public eye.
Personally, as a longtime 49er fan I had no problem with Kaepernick wearing a Dolphins hat. I agree with Kaepernick that he can wear whatever he wants, whenever he wants. But fending off critics via social media, even over a minor incident, is almost always a losing battle. If there’s anything Kaepernick should have used better judgment on, it’s putting on the hat knowing he’s a target whenever he’s out in public. He made things worse with his defiant comments lashing back at fans. The better move would have been to acknowledge it, be contrite and let it fade into the ether. Tweeting something like, “Sorry to all my fans. It was just a fashion thing, I bleed Red & Gold #NinerForLife” would have been enough. We live in a very forgiving society. If a celebrity owns up to something, asks for forgiveness and lets go of the matter, people tend to look past minor “scandals.”
Also, If Kaepernick is hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February, will any really care about a hat he wore in July?