ESPN cover draws ire, praise

Many would rather see Kaepernick in uniform

jcortez@modbee.comJuly 14, 2013 

— Nowhere is Colin Kaepernick more beloved than in his hometown, but some folks here prefer to see him sporting a football uniform rather than, well, just a football.

Kaepernick, a product of Pitman High School and now the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, will become the latest cover boy for ESPN The Magazine's The Body Issue when it hits newsstands today.

Once a year, the magazine features a select group of athletes posing au naturel to celebrate the beauty of the human form. Various props often are used — in Kaepernick's case, a football — to strategically cover certain regions of the body.

A random sampling of reaction in Turlock on Thursday afternoon yielded mixed results.

Leeann Bettencourt, a mother of three teenage boys, wasn't impressed by Kaepernick's photos, though she said she's only heard about them and hasn't seen them.

"I didn't care for what he did," said Bettencourt, who was sitting outside a Starbucks with her two younger boys. "I don't see this as being a role model, posing nude for photos. I think it was a bad decision."

Turlock's Louise Burgess, outside the post office on Main Street, felt even more strongly.

"This just lowered my image of him," said Burgess. "I don't think it's appropriate. It's not a good image for young people."

For most athletes, appearing in ESPN's The Body Issue is quite an honor, and according to Kaepernick's older brother, Kyle, the quarterback was thrilled to have been asked to pose.

"My parents subscribe to ESPN The Magazine, and last year's body issue was sitting on the coffee table," said Kyle Kaepernick. "I remember Colin was asked, by me or somebody in the family, if he would ever consider doing that. He didn't hesitate. He said, 'Yeah, absolutely!' "

"I'm proud of him. This is something he wanted to do and he's worked hard to sculpt his body like that."

Kyle Kaepernick doesn't understand why some would be upset over pictures that he says are done artistically and tastefully.

"I really don't understand our attitudes toward sex in this country," said Kyle Kaepernick. "I mean, you can see someone get their head blown off on TV, but you see a breast and it's ... it's unbelievable."

In an online video interview for ESPN, Kaepernick told ESPN The Magazine reporter Stevland Wilson that he has no desire to fit the template of an NFL quarterback.

"I don't want to be the standard image," Kaepernick tells Wilson. "To me, I don't want to be that perfect mold of, 'Oh, this is what every quarterback before you has looked like; this is what you're supposed to look like.' "

Turlocker Scott Faubert, 41 and an admitted Raiders fan, was walking along Main Street with his 5-year-old son, Scott II, when he was stopped and asked about the pictures.

"I wouldn't necessarily say it's great, but it doesn't offend me," said Faubert, who feels an affinity for Kaepernick because of his charitable work with Camp Taylor, which benefits children with heart disease. Faubert's son is a survivor of neuroblastoma, a form of cancer.

"I don't see this as offensive; he's showing his physique. I think it's more of a positive than a negative."

Kurt Dylan, 20, was riding his bike on Main Street when he was shown the pictures. His response was aimed more at the magazine than at Kaepernick.

"It doesn't make me think less of him," said Dylan. "It makes me think less of ESPN. He's a professional athlete and he's probably seen other athletes do this. By ESPN continually doing it, athletes think it's OK."

Lisa Fernandes, owner of Lisa's Cookie Jar in downtown Turlock, had the most mixed response.

"It's hard for me because I've known him since he was a small boy in church," said Fernandes, 55. "But at the same time, I think he looks awesome. I don't know any other way to say it.

"Some of the girls were just showing me the pictures and I said, 'Let me see another!' "

Kaepernick's mother, Teresa, has some advice for anybody who might be offended by her son's photos.

"With every single topic there's going to be some people who don't like it," said Teresa Kaepernick. "If they don't like it, they don't have to look at it, and I don't mean that to sound smart.

"You know, it's not too much different from what you'd see at the beach."

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