Ron Agostini

Kaepernick backtracks – has his brand taken a hit?

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws the ball during NFL football practice, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws the ball during NFL football practice, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin) AP

Social media can devour the unaware, much less the careless, and Colin Kaepernick has jumped with both feet into the mess.

Or maybe he was just hyping the San Francisco 49ers’ preseason opener Aug. 15 at Houston, right? Fate can play the most cruel jokes.

For starters, the natural disaster at Houston is no laughing matter.

At least five people are dead and three are missing from the flash flooding in the Houston area, the event Kaepernick passed off as a vehicle for humor and self-promotion on the public forum. The graduate of Pitman High posted an image of the many cars trapped under deep water and added a caption and his recent hashtag of choice, “I warned you the #7tormsComing!”

No wonder Kaepernick backtracked at warp speed.

“I’m so sorry about my insensitive post earlier today,” he wrote on Twitter. “I didn’t fully understand how many people are struggling in Houston right now, and I feel horrible. My prayers are with everyone there.”

That’s all fine and good. A donation to a city in need would assist further. Clearly, Kaepernick was not aware of the magnitude of the tragedy. We know him to be kind and passionate about wonderful causes for which he cares, such as Camp Taylor. The last time we checked, he doesn’t cheer for chemical warfare scientists, ax murderers or child abusers.

What Kaepernick needs, we’ve concluded, is an adviser. Someone who will tell him, “This is a good idea,” or “Don’t even go there.” And they can begin with, “Drop, right now, #7tormsComing.”

Kaepernick, 27, leaped into adulthood a long time ago. He’s the quarterback of the 49ers, one of the NFL’s most storied and glamorous franchises, an organization that deserves professional behavior on and off the field from arguably its most high-profile spokesman. Being embarrassed by its No. 1 player is not on its priority list.

Last spring, Kaepernick was involved in that strange episode with two fellow football players and a woman in a hotel room in Miami. Nothing came of it, and Kaepernick was guilty of no more than bad judgment. But at a prayer breakfast near his Turlock roots, he said the incident “changed my way of thinking” and “made me look at things differently.”

It’s time, especially after this week’s damage, for him to start acting differently. To be blunt, it’s time for him to grow up. He carries the baton for an admirable family, a proud franchise and all Valley sports fans. That said, I think he’s used all his lifelines.

There is room in today’s culture to market oneself as edgy and hip without alienating cities and fan bases. Kaepernick, who has 1.3 million followers on Instagram and 755,000 on Twitter, seemingly is not aware of the responsibility those numbers carry.

Last February, he went out of his way to crush a singular Twitter critic who did not like Kaepernick’s offseason workout regimen. Why sweat one guy? This, like the Houston mistake, was unforced.

It must not be easy being Colin Kaepernick. One look at his life story says it all. The last thing he wants is to be an entry in someone’s established category. He knows he can’t be Peyton Manning. His goal is to be his own creation. Unique. Fresh. It makes sense, because he’s all of that. Goodness, he took a team to the Super Bowl in only seven starts. Watch him on the field. Does he remind you of anyone else?

Which means he’s carrying a lot of baggage, and evidence suggests it occasionally gets too heavy for him. He must be reminded that the landmines of social media have destroyed careers, and he must review the merits of a reduced role. I’m not sure his agent, Scott Smith of XAM Sports, has served him well on that front.

Take, for example, #7tormsComing, and, for the moment, let’s leave out Houston. Calling out attention to the challenge Kaepernick and the 49ers face this fall is another regrettable choice.

The 49ers enter 2015 with a raw and untested coaching staff, nine players rehabbing ACLs, veterans who’ve retired or moved on, and a quarterback who’s altered his throwing motion. Why, with the team standing on the cliff’s edge, do you promise success and thereby steepen the fall?

Again, unforced errors.

Fans of the 49ers, as well as fans across the country, really want to like Kaepernick. His jersey still sells fourth-best in the NFL, behind No. 1 Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Better still, he’s shown he can learn. He steered away from those annoying four-word answers in post-game news conferences late last season. Good move.

Kaepernick’s brand, as the marketers like to say, is strong. It will surely weaken, however, if 1. He fails on the field, or 2. He fails off the field.

I could accept No. 1. Not No. 2.