The San Francisco 49ers selected Ohio State's Nick Bosa, virtually the consensus number-one-rated prospect in the nation, with the second overall pick in Thursday night's first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Though Bosa brings the edge-rushing pedigree of having recorded 17.5 sacks and 29 tackles-for-a-loss in 29 college games, his right-wing political views may prove to be a significant issue, given the fact that he is bringing his talents to the more liberal-minded Bay Area.
49er fans are more than familiar with Colin Kaepernick and the national anthem protests he started. While fans, players, and officials seemed divided in their opinions about the issue across the league, many folks in the Bay Area understand and empathize with the problem of police brutality against African Americans — the underlying issue Kaepernick was protesting to bring to light.
With that in mind, Bosa, in tweets he has since deleted, reportedly called Kaepernick a "clown" and "Crappernick." His timeline was also allegedly full of pro-Trump tweets. Many will remember that the President of the United States once referred to NFL players who participated in the anthem protests as "sons of b*****s." All of these things will surely not go over well with those within the 49er locker room who support Kaepernick and his cause, as well as the fanbase in San Francisco who are exceedingly woke, especially when compared to the Ohio State faithful.
Beyond merely expressing right-of-center political views, Bosa has been involved in much more troubling social media activity. A Twitter user calling himself "Resist Programming" uncovered an old tweet wherein Bosa "liked" an apparent longtime friend's post containing racist and other inappropriate hashtags, including "#n***areppin" and "#rapeandpillage."
When asked about his social media activity, which included the anti-Kaepernick tweets, along with criticism of Beyonce and Marvel's Black Panther film, Bosa failed to either explain his beliefs or reconsider them. ESPN's Kevin Van Valkenburg sat down for an interview with Nick, during which this exchange ensued:
"Last year he [Nick] seemed to delight in posting political takes, including his support for President Trump, on Twitter and needling dissenters. (He also caused a minor social media stir by criticizing Beyonce, Black Panther and Colin Kaepernick, all eventually deleted.) As the combine drew near, though, his online behavior grew increasingly bland. I asked why he seemed to abandon something he had previously embraced.
'I had to,' he says. 'There is a chance I might end up in San Francisco.'"
As far as league sources are concerned, there seems to be an epic downplaying effort going on on Bosa's behalf. Marc Tracy of the New York Times has a piece detailing the NFL's recent history with college players and their "baggage" in which he notes ESPN's NFL Draft expert Todd McShay and NFL Network's Charley Casserly both believe Bosa's controversial social media history won't be a significant issue.
McShay: "I can’t imagine a team sitting in a draft room — and I’ve asked teams — saying, 'We’re going to pass on this guy because he’s left or right wing.' As long as it’s not something that from a character standpoint is something that is concerning or alarming, I don’t think politics will play into where a guy gets picked."
Casserly: "I always go back to: What would the Patriots do? What would Belichick do?" he said of the perennial Super Bowl contenders and their head coach, implying that Bill Belichick would look past the tweets. "It’s about football — it’s not about politics."
While merely expressing one's reasonable political views shouldn't be cause for concern in and around NFL locker rooms, when those ideas begin to shade over into racism and other forms of bigotry, the media and fanbase will hold the team and the particular player accountable. In the case of Nick Bosa and the 49ers, for now, the uproar seems to be minimal. We'll see what happens throughout the rest of this offseason and into the 2019 campaign.
What we do know is that, for better or worse, these things tend to fade into the background when guys are playing well and teams are winning.