USA TODAY Sports’ Michael Middlehurst-
Schwartz breaks down the game of the newest San Francisco 49ers: Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa.
USA TODAY Sports
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Maybe Nick Bosa will live up to the projections and emerge as a linchpin for what is envisioned as a dominant D-line in the making, but when the player chosen second overall in the NFL draft conducted his introductory media session with the San Francisco 49ers on Friday, the most interesting thing about his presence had nothing to do with football.
Bosa came to town and brought the young-and-dumb defense with him as he addressed controversy stemming from since-scrubbed social media posts, including some that associated him with racist and homophobic slurs.
He said he was sorry for the tweet where he called Colin Kaepernick a clown. Admitted some responsibility for offending people. Pledged to grow from the furor and think before he tweets.
Blah blah blah. Bosa, 21, has had his own version of sensitivity training during the draft process, no doubt trying to fortify his image after rehabbing the core injury that cut short his final season at Ohio State.
“When you’re in a situation like this, you’ve got to be held to a higher standard,” Bosa told USA TODAY Sports. “I can’t be tweeting like my friends tweet. Because they’re normal. They’re in college, they’re not in press conferences all the time. So, I mean, I have to hold myself to a higher standard, conduct myself a little better and just think.”
This exchange in a hallway at Levi’s Stadium shortly after Bosa’s news conference was a bit awkward, with three team officials waiting in the wings, but he was willing enough to take on a few follow-up questions. He was prepared, knowing that with the increased scrutiny of the NFL stage – ask Kaepernick about that – there’s a significant amount of interest from some people like me, a middle-aged black man, about what he represents as a person.
“Once people see me on the field and see what I do in the community,” he added. “a lot of those questions will be answered.”
Yeah, but the questions are there for a reason. When he was back in high school, it was revealed this week, Bosa “liked” posts on Instagram that featured the N-word and a homophobic slur. Then there was the post about Kaepernick, the ex-49ers starter who ignited the protest movement in the NFL by kneeling during the national anthem to symbolize disgust with a series of shootings of unarmed African-Americans by police and other social injustices.
Asked during his news conference whether he still views Kaepernick as a clown, Bosa seemed contrite as it was pointed out that the former quarterback represented voices of people who are too often marginalized.
“No,” he said. “It wasn’t directed towards that. It’s not like I’m saying his stance and what he was doing, that’s not what I was calling or talking about at all. It was just me, a specific thing that happened and me as a young kid, a thought popping into my head and boom, decided to tweet it out. Bad, bad decision.
“I respect what he’s done. If it empowers anybody, then he’s doing a good thing. I apologize for that.”
It’s ironic that Bosa winds up with Kaepernick’s former team and intriguing that his NFL career begins in the most liberal market in the NFL.
This isn’t about his politics. Bosa has a right to support President Trump and any of the conservative commentators whom he has followed on social media. And I’d suspect that the majority of 49ers fans won’t care so long as he’s bringing heat on the opposing quarterback.
Yet I’m wondering whether the personal growth he mentions is merely for convenience and image-rehab, whether it would have occurred as such if he wasn’t exposed. He was recently quoted by ESPN as contending his social media accounts had to be scrubbed because he might wind up in San Francisco. He said that publicly. Imagine what the expressions might be behind closed doors.
“I definitely made some insensitive decisions throughout my life,” Bosa said. “I’m just excited to be here with a clean slate. I’m sorry if I hurt anybody. I definitely didn’t intend for that to be the case. I think me being here is even better for me as a person because I don’t think there’s anywhere, any city that you could really be in that would help you grow as much as this one will.”
The 49ers’ braintrust obviously doesn’t see the controversy as a long-term issue for the player widely considered the most complete defensive end in the draft. Coach Kyle Shanahan said on Thursday night that they were comfortable with the feedback from teammates and others at Ohio State. General manager John Lynch added that after the new report surfaced this week, he didn’t see a need to discuss it with Bosa.
“No, I didn’t,” Lynch said. “Not this issue. I didn’t feel the need to ever. I felt very good about the person, and I know it’s come out in the last couple of days, but we still feel very good about it.”
It’s not a big deal to Lynch, who probably doesn’t get as worked up about seeing the N-word as I do but surely worked alongside players across the political spectrum during his career as an all-pro safety. No doubt he’s banking on Bosa to win over the locker room with his production and work habits. It’s a job, after all.
Bosa – whose father John played three NFL seasons and brother Joey is a phenomenal defensive end for the Chargers – insists that he doesn’t need to explain anything to his new teammates. That would include African-American teammates who may wonder if there’s some connect-the-dot issue with someone who bashed Kaepernick, Beyonce’s music and “Black Panther” a few years after “liking” a post with the N-word. Hmm.
“I think once they get in and I meet the guys and they learn who I am, I don’t think there’s going to need any explaining,” Bosa maintained. “I think they’re going to see who I am as a person and that’ll be enough.”
That’s essentially Bosa saying to take him at his word.
“I have learned a lot in the past couple of months,” he said.
Let’s hope so. Given his word-association history and increased scrutiny, the education may be just beginning.
Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.