49ers Denounce Fan's 'Racist Messages' to Cardinals Safety Budda Baker
A major development of the Arizona Cardinals 24-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday is the status of All-Pro tight end George Kittle, who suffered a knee injury in the second quarter on a tackle by safety Budda Baker.
While the two have history, it has all been positive. Competitive battles have taken place between the two NFC West standouts and the Baker-Kittle matchup has been dynamic. However, when rewatching the play, Baker does not appear to attack Kittle with any ill intent. In fact, many pundits have blamed San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garropolo for placing the ball too high and thus leaving Kittle vulnerable.
However, not all 49ers fans feel this way. While Kittle played in 98 percent of the team's offensive snaps Sunday, he was mainly used as a decoy and was not targeted fir the remainder of the game — a significant factor in the Cardinals win. He has since been diagnosed with a knee sprain and his status moving forward is unknown.
Prior to the contest, Kittle expressed nothing but admiration for Baker.
"Budda's a hell of a football player," he said. "He's a safety that just does it all. His mindset, I love watching Budda play. He's a monster. He's all over the field. He is the guy that, if you do not block him, he will ruin your day every single play, the whole game. If you have a 70-play game, you don't block him on 70 plays, he's going to make the play probably 70 times. That's just who he is. There's a reason he led the NFL in solo tackles. There's a reason he just got the contract that he did because he deserves it. He's a hell of a football player. He's been to two Pro Bowls. He's a guy that, honestly doesn't get enough recognition. But he's an incredible football player."
One apparent 49ers fan took to Instagram to let Baker know his feelings of the play that injured Kittle, which the Cardinals' safety screenshotted and shared on his Twitter.
*In accordance with AllCardinals policy, we have omitted sections of this exchange. The full tweet can be seen here.
"Wasup monkey ..." the direct message, sent through Instagram, read in part. "... Tryna go after knees you think we blind ... Get on your knees."
In the screenshot, Baker did not directly respond to the sender. Instead, he posted a statement on Twitter.
"Im all good with opposing fans talking trash," he wrote. "But This right here man... All you can do is pray for ppl like this."
In response, the 49ers organization declared their intention to take appropriate action.
"The San Francisco 49ers unequivocally denounce the racist messages sent to Budda Baker," the statement read. "The individual who sent the messages does not represent the 49ers or the Faithful. Per team policy, we are working to identify this person and will ban them from all 49ers games and events.
"Incidents like this demonstrate how much work remains to be done to address racism and hate in our society. We remain steadfast in our commitment to that work."
Despite admittedly not yet seeing footage of the play, Cardinals starting left guard Justin Pugh adamantly defended Baker's actions based upon the character in which he plays the sport.
"I actually haven't had a chance to see the hit," Pugh said Tuesday. "I've heard everyone talking about it. It's a violent game out there. I have d-linemen every play trying to take me out. When they run picks, they come in there with the intention of trying to hurt us. And I know it's a violent game. I will tell you this: Budda Baker is one of the best human beings. We park our cars next to each other every day, so we have a chance to talk. He is one of the best human beings.
"There is no way Budda will go out there to try to take a shot on someone. He comes down and tries to hit everyone legally, clean, every step of the way. Unfortunately, that's part of the game. There's 100 percent chance of injury. And you look across the board, guys get hurt on every team. It's unfortunate that [Kittle] wasn't able to come back out there and play the way he wanted to. You never want to see that, but it's part of it. That's what happens in the NFL."
Baker finished the game with a career-high tying 15 tackles (10 solo, five assisted), while Kittle ended the day with four receptions for 44 yards on five targets.