Before San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem of Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, a loud chant of “USA, USA” rang out at New Era Field.
Some interpreted the chants as questioning Kaepernick’s patriotism for his protest of racial inequality and oppression in the United States. It was an implication Kaepernick vehemently disagreed with after San Francisco’s 45-16 loss.
“I don’t understand what’s un-American about fighting for liberty and justice for everybody, for the equality this country says it stands for,” Kaepernick said. “To me, I see it as very patriotic and American to uphold the United States to the standards that it says it lives by.”
In continuing his protest, Kaepernick on Sunday knelt during the anthem for the first time as a starting quarterback before a regular-season game; he was again joined by safety Eric Reid and linebacker Eli Harold in supporting the cause.
Safeties Antoine Bethea and Jaquiski Tartt, cornerbacks Keith Reaser and Rashard Robinson and running back Mike Davis continued their tradition of raising their right fists during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
As Kaepernick, who made his first start since Week 8 of last season, led the offense onto the field, he was greeted by a loud chorus of boos from Bills fans. Those boos continued for the first couple of snaps before dissipating into cheers of encouragement for Buffalo’s defense.
“I don’t understand what’s un-American about fighting for liberty and justice for everybody, for the equality this country says it stands for.”
Colin Kaepernick, on Bills fans’ chants of “USA” before he knelt during national anthem
During the game, a fan at the stadium tweeted that someone had thrown a bottle at Kaepernick, but if it happened, Kaepernick didn’t notice.
“If they did, they didn’t have very good aim,” Kaepernick said. “But 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. At the end of the day, I’m going to continue to fight for what I’m fighting for.”
Meanwhile, just off the stadium property, TheMMQB.com reported that outside vendors were selling anti-Kaepernick shirts, including one depicting Kaepernick in the crosshairs of a rifle scope with the words “Wanted: Notorious Disgrace to America” around a photo of Kaepernick.
Last month, Kaepernick said he had received death threats over his protest, but he said Sunday those aren’t as frequent anymore.
“Those are rare occurrences now,” Kaepernick said. “I think for the most part people are realizing the impact and what’s going on, and like I said from the beginning, I knew the consequences of what could come with this, and I was prepared for that.”
The fan reaction wasn’t all negative, however. A group of Bills fans participated in a “kneel in” outside the stadium to support Kaepernick and his cause.
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