ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem, as usual. Then he trotted onto the field to play — and that was unusual.
Kaepernick hadn’t started for the San Francisco 49ers since last November. His team lost to the Buffalo Bills 45-16 Sunday but he still said it felt good to get out there and shake off the rust.
He was asked how Bills fans treated him and told there was an unconfirmed report someone had thrown a bottle at him.
“If they did, they don’t have very good aim,” Kaepernick said to laughter. “I had some Bills fans come up before the game to say they support me so I think it all depends on who the person is. But at the end of the day, I’m going to continue to fight for what I’m fighting for.”
He said he wore a Muhammad Ali shirt Sunday in homage to the late heavyweight champ: “He was someone who fought a very similar fight and was trying to do what was right for people. … People remember him more for that than they do as a boxer.”
The crowd chanted “USA! USA!” in the moments before the anthem. The implication seemed to be, at least in part, that Kaepernick is somehow un-American.
“I don’t understand what is 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 standards that it says it lives by.”
He was pleased to learn that a group of Bills fans knelt outside the stadium during the anthem as a show of support. “That’s huge,” he said.
Kaepernick got the start after former starter Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers lost four in a row after an opening-day win. Now they’ve lost a fifth in a row. Kaepernick completed 13 for 29 passes for 187 yards and ran for 66 additional yards.
Did he do enough to keep the starting job?
“That’s not for me to say,” Kaepernick said. “I went out and played as hard as I could and gave this team everything I had. I will continue to do that every week they let me.”