by Jack Rieger
On Sunday afternoon, Colin Kaepernick started an NFL game for the first time in almost a year. His lack of play hasn’t kept him out of the spotlight, as Kaerpernick’s national anthem protest has become a countrywide storyline for the last two months.
In his first start of the season, Kaepernick put in an underwhelming performance, completing 13 of 29 passes for one touchdown and running eight times for 66 yards in a 45-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills. His play wasn’t the topic of conversation, but rather his return to the field. Kaepernick has taken a knee before every game to communicate that he will not “show pride in a flag or country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Kaepernick certainly received his share of criticism on Sunday. One fan was spotted selling T-shirts that pictured Kaepernick with a rifle scope aimed at his chest. Another fan was spotted throwing a beer bottle at Kaerpernick while the quarterback was on the sideline. The bottle-throwing fan was found by security and escorted out of the stadium.
After the game, reporters asked Kaepernick how he feels about being called un-American.
“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,” Kaepernick said. “To me, I see it as very patriotic and American to uphold the United to States to the standards that it says it lives by. That’s something that needs to be addressed.”
Not all Buffalo fans were against Kaepernick’s protest. Before the game, Kaepernick met with Buffalo natives who supported his cause.
“That’s huge,” Kaepernick said. “I think it’s something. Once again, people are realizing this is a real issue that affects many people. And it’s something that has to be addressed and until us as people recognize and address that some of us have privilege and some of us don’t.
“And some of us are able to do certain things without consequences and others of us can’t. Those are all things that need to be addressed. Me as a black man that plays football and is considered a celebrity, I’m treated differently than a man that’s working a nine-to-five in the hood. And that’s just the reality of it.”
On Monday afternoon, 49ers head coach Chip Kelly said Kaepernick would again start this upcoming Sunday against Tampa Bay. Whether he’s the starting quarterback or not, Kaepernick has pledged to continue his protest of kneeling during the national anthem for the rest of the year.
Jack Rieger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JackRieger.