SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- There was a dais, a table, a chair, and a young man with something to say. Aware he was going to have to answer for controversial social media posts he had made over the last six years, including one in which he called former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick a clown. Nick Bosa wanted to address the issue without assistance at his introductory Bay Area press conference, which came one night after the 49ers made him the second overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Seated before media, team employees and his parents inside a meeting room at Levi's Stadium, the talented defensive end from Ohio State leaned forward with his hands in his lap and soaked in every word of the question.
You previously said some things that were insensitive. Can you understand why some would find them offensive?
After a brief acknowledgement, he said: "I'm sorry if I hurt anybody. I definitely didn't intend for that to be the case. I think me being here (San Francisco) 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. I'm going to be surrounded with people of all different kinds, so I'm going to grow as a person. I'm going to be on my own. I'm going to grow up, I'm gonna learn a lot of new things. It's exciting."
And what of the tweet about Kaepernick, who sought to give a voice to the voiceless by kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against people of color? Does he still consider Kaepernick a clown, as he posted two-and-a-half years ago?
"No," he said. "It wasn't directed toward that. It's not like I'm saying his stance and what he was doing -- that's not what I was talking about at all. It was just 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 decision. I respect what he's done. If it empowers anybody, then he's doing a good thing. I apologize for that."
Bosa, wearing a blue suit, open-collared white dress shirt and a white pocket square, appeared nervous as he spoke. His voice, soft and low, trembled at times, and his hands clenched together on occasion. This was the last place he wanted to be, and yet it was the only place he wanted to be. He had created the controversy, and he wanted to address it. Alone.
Team CEO Jed York offered beforehand to join him on the dais as a sign of support, but Bosa declined. Perhaps he didn't want to put that responsibility on anyone else. Perhaps he wanted to show he could be accountable for actions. More than anything, he wanted to clear the air and attempt to move forward.
The 49ers believe that Bosa's posts -- some were six years old -- were the actions of a young, immature kid. General manager John Lynch specifically asked Bosa about his social media posts, including "liking" one that contained homophobic and racist hashtags. But the organization, based on its research, felt comfortable with Bosa as a person because he was liked and respected by his teammates and coaches. That sentiment was echoed privately by former college teammates I contacted over the last couple of days. They said Bosa related well with everyone, something he doesn't expect to change with his new teammates, several of whom posted welcoming tweets Thursday night.
"I think once they get in and I meet the guys and they learn who I am, I don't think [it's] going to need any explaining," he said. "I think they're going to see who I am as a person, and that'll be enough."
The picture that Bosa paints of himself on social media is that of an unapologetic conservative who stands firmly behind the President. But some of the controversy stems from his most critical posts being directed at high-profile blacks, including Beyonce, Jay-Z, Draymond Green and Kaepernick. (According to ESPN, these tweets were later deleted.) The 49ers have publicly said they are respectful of all their players' political views. They will stand behind Bosa, just as they stood behind Kaepernick, even donating $1 million to local groups fighting for social justice when Kaepernick began his demonstrations.
For now, the team wants to move forward, which is fine with Bosa.
"I have learned a lot in the past couple months," he said. "I'm definitely going to think a lot more before I send something out."
On Saturday morning, President Donald Trump congratulated Bosa on Twitter: