Ernie Lazetera, whose origins as a die-hard San Francisco 49ers fan date back to the late 1960s, now uses the Denver Broncos logo as his Facebook profile photo.

When did he make the switch?

"The second after Richard Sherman opened his mouth," the Morgan Hill resident explained. "It was within a minute. I couldn't wait to change it."

Lazetera is hardly alone. Sherman, the combustible Seattle Seahawks cornerback, created a legion of newly minted Broncos fans in the Bay Area by ridiculing 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree in a TV interview.

The 49ers Faithful have decided it's OK to see other people.

Sherman's postgame outburst made it permissible to switch to Broncos colors, at least for the purposes of Super Bowl XLVIII. Orange is the new red.

"We were so put off by Sherman's remarks about Crabtree that we immediately decided we will be rooting for the Broncos," lifelong 49ers fan Sam Rhem, who grew up in Santa Cruz and now lives near Washington D.C., wrote in an email.

"I mean he can scream he's the best corner all he wants we don't care, but to disrespect and demean your opponent? Not very sportsmanlike."

Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback, is among those to saddle up with the Broncos. In an interview with the New York Post on Thursday, he was quoted saying: "Go, Peyton!"

In advance of the big game, we asked via Twitter whether fans would be rooting for the Broncos. The response was almost universal in support of the Denver Not-Richard-Shermans.

Rhem, for example, watched the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 19 with his daughter Maggie. Seattle beat the 49ers 23-17 when Sherman's terrific defensive play led to a game-saving interception.

Maggie, crushed by the finish, asked her dad to turn the TV off. But he was too slow. They sat there aghast as Sherman, the former Stanford cornerback, shouted: "When you try to come at me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're going to get."

Sherman later called Crabtree "mediocre" and said, "If any team had a chance to pick Crabtree, they wouldn't draft him." The Seahawks star had also directed the "choke" sign in the direction of Kaepernick.

So began the mass migration from the Gold Rush to the Orange Crush.

"I was reaching for the remote when Sherman started his rant," Rhem said. "We couldn't believe it."

That night, Rhem logged onto his computer to buy Peyton Manning jerseys for himself and Maggie and her sister Lexi.

San Francisco fans didn't exactly need much of a push. Their increasingly hostile rivalry with Seattle made it unlikely that they'd become honorary members of the Seahawks' legendary "12th Man" fan base.

But Sherman's comments created a new phenomenon: 49ers fans rallying around the Broncos flag -- the "12th Manning."

"The enemy of my enemy is an ally, right?" wrote Rob Spalding, 41, who grew up in Newark and now lives in Portland, Ore.

"While I already didn't like the Seahawks, the actions of Richard Sherman put my feelings over the top," wrote Matthew Gibson, 28, who lives in Connecticut. "I'll feel happy for Peyton Manning, my favorite non-Niner ever, as he dissects the Seahawks secondary and turns Richard Sherman from a loudmouth showoff into a petrified, embarrassed jackass."

Maluri Fernandez, 43, said she had been ambivalent about the Super Bowl -- until Sherman opened his mouth.

"I felt frustration, hate, anger and obsessed with payback," Fernandez said.

Marisa Miller, the Santa Cruz-born supermodel/actress and noted 49ers loyalist, tweeted after the game using the hashtag #ClasslessinSeattle. (Employing the marketing slogan of the five-time Super Bowl champion 49ers -- Quest for Six -- she mocked the Seahawks by adding the hashtag #QuestforOne.)

Sherman softened in his comments in the immediate aftermath, saying he wished he'd "worded things better." His many fans from Seattle and beyond have noted that Sherman has a story worth rooting for: Raised in a dangerous Compton neighborhood, he used his soaring IQ and a relentless academic work ethic to earn his way to a degree from Stanford in communication.

In the NFL, he transformed himself from lightly regarded fifth-round draft pick into an elite cornerback. As Sherman explained: "Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does his for his family."

David Jacobson of the Mountain View-based Positive Coaching Alliance is unmoved.

"No, a big part of anyone's character is what they say and do in public," he wrote on the PCA website. "And it's hard to take Sherman's request seriously when his postgame antics actually diminish his contributions."

Jim Thompson, the executive director of the PCA, said in a phone interview: "There are a lot of admirable things about Richard Sherman, but what he did after the game is not what we want to see."

Sterling McGarvey, a Bay Area-based writer/consultant, acknowledged that the 49ers "don't have complete angels among their ranks." He pointed to the way Kaepernick taunted Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton by mimicking Newton's "Superman" touchdown celebration in a playoff victory Jan. 12 in Charlotte, N.C.

"But Sherman just goes beyond the pale for me," McGarvey wrote in an email. "I'm actively cheering for Peyton Manning to kiss the Lombardi on Sunday and for the tears of the 12th Man to match the average rainfall for an early February around Puget Sound."

Follow Daniel Brown at Twitter.com/mercbrownie.