ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Amid loud chants of “USA! USA! USA!,” San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt for the national anthem Sunday in his continuing protest against racial oppression and police brutality.
Outside the stadium, vendors sold shirts with Kaepernick’s image in the sites of a rifle scope, and fans tackled a dummy dressed up like the quarterback. Nearby, other fans protested in support of the movement .
The game against the Buffalo Bills marked Kaepernick’s first start of the season after Blaine Gabbert was benched.
Kaepernick knelt on the the 49ers sideline, joined by linebacker Eli Harold and safety Eric Reid. To the left of the kneeling players, cornerback Rashard Robinson and safety Antoine Bethea stood for the anthem, each with an arm raised.
The entire Bills team stood on the sideline, as players and coaches have done all this season.
Kaepernick was the only San Francisco player not wearing his helmet when the Niners took the field. He was loudly booed while jogging toward the 49ers sideline.
He got off the 49ers bus wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Muhammad Ali.
Outside New Era Field, one vendor was selling a T-shirt
“Wanted: Notorious Disgrace to America,” and with a picture of Kaepernick throwing a pass and a bullseye aimed at his chest.
Another T-shirt featured a drawing of a kneeling Kaepernick with the words, “Shut Up and Stand Up!” printed.
Outside the stadium, fans took out their anger on a tackling dummy wearing a Kaepernick jersey.
Kaepernick has caused a national stir with his protest, which began when he sat for the anthem during the preseason. He has since changed his protest, kneeling during the anthem. Other players have followed suit, while some have protested by raising a fist.
Kaepernick hadn’t started since a loss at St. Louis on Nov. 1. He briefly played the following week before being placed on season-ending injured reserve. He then had three operations to repair injuries to his non-throwing shoulder, left knee and right thumb.
When asked about his wearing a Muhammad Ali T-shirt at a post-game press conference, Kaepernick said it was to pay homage to him.
“He was someone that fought a very similiar fight and was trying to do what’s right for the people. And for me, to be able to have someone like that come before me, is huge. He is someone that helped paved the way for this to happen. … I can’t let him die in vain. I have to be able to try and carry that on and try to fight the same fight until we accomplish our goal.
Another reporter brought up a rumor that a Bills fan threw a bottle at him. “If they did, they didn’t have very good aim,” Kaepernick jokingly said. “But, you know, I had some Bills fans come up to me before the game saying they support me. 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.”