San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick got his first start of the season Oct. 16 in Buffalo, and Bills fans let their feelings be known about his practice of kneeling for the national anthem as a form of protest.
ESPN.com reported that prior to the playing of the anthem at Buffalo’s New Era Field, the crowd chanted “USA, USA.” Kaepernick proceeded to kneel for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and was joined by a handful of 49er teammates who either knelt or raised a fist in protest.
The quarterback was booed lustily upon taking the field for the 49ers’ first possession. After the game, a 45-16 win by Buffalo, Kaepernick remained defiant in the wake of the criticism.
“I don’t understand what’s un-American about fighting for liberty and justice for everybody, for the equality that this country says it stands for,” he said. “To me, I see it as very patriotic and American to uphold the United States to the standards it says it lives by.”
Prior to the game, tailgating Bills fans were seen tackling a dummy made to look like the 49ers signal-caller, and vendors sold various anti-Kaepernick t-shirts.
Kaepernick’s decision to kneel for the national anthem to protest police treatment of minorities has set off a firestorm of criticism on social media and throughout the country. 49ers fans have burned Kaepernick’s jersey in protest and others have demanded that the team cut ties with its quarterback. Others have defended Kaepernick’s right not to stand for the anthem.
The attendees in Buffalo were not entirely anti-Kaepernick, as a group of fans outside the stadium conducted a “kneel-in” to demonstrate support for Kaepernick’s protest.
“I had some Bills fans before the game come up and say they are supporting me, so I think it all depends on who the person is,” Kaepernick said. “At the end of the day, I'm going to continue to fight for what I'm fighting for."
Kaepernick has been playing in the National Football League since he was drafted in 2011. The following year he led the 49ers to their first Super Bowl since 1994, where they were defeated by the Baltimore Ravens. Since then he struggled as injuries and poor play limited his playing time. He requested a trade this past offseason but returned to the 49ers this year.