Bills fans, black and white, kneel during anthem in solidarity with Kaepernick - The Buffalo News

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Bills fans, black and white, kneel during anthem in solidarity with Kaepernick

A group of Buffalo Bills fans led a march in support of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick before Sunday’s game at New Era Field and kneeled outside the stadium while the national anthem played.

“We’re standing in solidarity with Kaepernick, and as Bills fans, we’re fighting against racial injustice,” group organizer Caitlin Blue said.

Meanwhile, Kaepernick and teammates Eric Reid and Eli Harold kneeled on the 49ers sideline during the anthem – as they have all season – while all of the Bills remained standing. Kaepernick has vowed to continue his protest against social injustice and police brutality until he sees “significant change” in America and feels like the flag “represents what it’s supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to.”

Passers-by hurled occasional insults at the fan group as they knelt, telling them they were a “joke” and a “disgrace,” adding that, “all lives matter.” Various anti-Kaepernick T-shirts and beer koozies were for sale in the parking lots before the game, with inscriptions such as, "Stand up & shut up." One shirt even featured Kaepernick's torso in the crosshairs of a rifle – "Wanted: Notorious disgrace to America," it read.

“We’ve heard people say that he’s not a real American, that he’s unpatriotic, he needs to shut up,” Blue said. “But we need people to realize this is one of the most patriotic things you can do, by raising awareness and bringing attention to injustices."

The group, numbering roughly 50 people of various races, held signs that read, “Buffalo supports Colin Kaepernick,” “Bills fans for racial justice,” and “Protest is patriotic.” They led a march from the parking lot to the front of the stadium about 15 minutes before kickoff.

“There were some mixed emotions because we thought we might receive a lot of harsh backlash from other sports fans, but everything went smoothly and as planned,” Blue said. “We’re grateful that it turned out to be a peaceful protest.”

Elsewhere in parking lots, some fans put a Kaepernick jersey and an afro wig on a tackling dummy, repeatedly leveling the practice item. "Tackle the Muslim!" one fan was reportedly heard yelling in a video before the dummy was smacked to the ground. Farther down Abbott Road, one tailgate displayed a sign that said, "Cops eat free!"

During the game, there were reports that a fan may have thrown a bottle at the quarterback on the sideline, but Kaepernick said, "if they did, they didn't have very good aim."

Harold, the linebacker who also knelt during the anthem, said this type of treatment has followed the 49ers everywhere they've been.

"No man, just the norm," he said when asked if Buffalo fans were especially harsh during the Bills' 45-16 win. "Nothing any different than the San Diego game when this first started. Nothing different."

Kaepernick said after the game that his death threats are "rare occurrences now." He wore a Muhammad Ali shirt in his press conference "to pay homage."

"He was someone that fought a very similar fight and was trying to do what was right for the people," Kaepernick said. "He is someone who helped pave the way for this to happen. What he did and what he stood for, people remember him more for that than they do a boxer. I can't let him die in vain. I have to try to carry that on and try to fight that same fight until we accomplish our goal."

The Bills fan group that held a demonstration before the game planned to throw a party immediately after so they could watch the game. Told later of their actions, Kaepernick said, "That's huge."

"I think it's something, once again, that people are realizing is a real issue that affects many people," he said. "It's something that has to be addressed."

Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who represented Team USA at the London Olympics, sought Kaepernick out after the game to exchange jerseys. They're both brothers of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, Goodwin said.

He plans to frame Kaepernick's jersey and put it up in his house, as is – sweat, stains and all.

"This is part of history," he told The News. "We'll look back in 20 years, 30 years from now and be, like, 'This dude stood for something.' He didn't fall [despite] everything. He stood for something, stood his ground, and no matter how many times he got booed, no matter how much scrutiny that he faced, he still was resilient through that and had the heart and the courage to continue to do that."

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