It is the photograph that has launched a thousand captions. Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick apparently exchanging insults, or so the media would have you believe. From the ESPN to the Charlotte Observer to the Washington Post, everyone is hoping for tensions between the two current biggest names in the NFL. Newton vs Kaepernick? That is the national sports media’s wet dream.
But what was really happening in the exchange? I tracked down the the photographer responsible for the controversial image.
PJ Ward-Brown , a freelance photographer with the Courier Tribune out of Asheboro, NC, took the now famous photos. I recently spoke with PJ about the photos and what he saw or heard on the field as they were taken.
“I look up and spot Cam and Colin going, they are just talking. I wish I could really hear what they were saying.” Ward-Brown said. “When Colin and Cam walked up to each other, Colin was in a friendly mood. Then after they got finished talking Colin looked surprised.”
Ward-Brown sent me the series of photos that led up to the strange expression from Colin Kaepernick that the internet has fallen in love with. In them, Newton and Kaepernick first embrace. Newton has maintained that he and Kaepernick have a friendly relationship, this would coincide with that story.
As they leave each other’s company, a few words are exchanged that led to the photo that you have probably all seen by now.
From looking at the photos in sequence, it does appear that Kaepernick is talking, which would explain why his mouth is open in the last and most famous photo. In still photos, a slightly open mouth can translate into many emotions, when the subject could have simple been speaking.
Whatever the exchange was, it must not have bothered Kaepernick all that much. Afterwards, he sought out ex-teammate Ted Ginn. “Then Kaepernick walks up to Ted Ginn Jr and he is all smiles.” Ward-Brown told me. Here is Ward-Brown’s photo of the exchange.
So what is going on here? I can’t tell you, because I don’t know.
What I can tell you is that I have been on the field after NFL games countless times and have taken thousands of photos. It is not at all unusual to see strange facial expressions in still photos as players interact after the game. Between the players, the photographers, the handlers, the reporters, it is complete chaos on the field. For me to speculate on what Kaepernick was reacting to, if anything at all, would be pointless.
The photographer responsible for the photo agrees.
“I don’t want to speculate. I think everybody is blowing it out of proportion.”
All photos courtesy of PJ Ward-Brown – Twitter handle @PJWardBrown