Colin Kaepernick was sacked three times Sunday and took plenty of abuse when he went to the sideline as well.
“You hear a lot of crazy stuff,” receiver Quinton Patton said. “I don’t want to be saying anything I’m not supposed to. But it’s a lot of negative and a lot of hard stuff coming toward Kap on the sideline, and everybody doesn’t know that. He’s taking all the heat from everybody and anybody.”
Patton said he thought Kaepernick had done a good job of filtering out the catcalls.
“You’ve got to be a strong individual for that, and I commend him for that,” he said.
The anti-Kaepernick sentiment began hours before kickoff in the parking lots around the stadium and included T-shirts with Kaepernick’s likeness inside the cross hairs of a rifle scope. “Wanted,” the shirts read. “Notorious Disgrace to America.”
Many Bills fans dressed not in the red or blue jerseys of the home team but in red, white and blue flag-themed shirts, presumably touting their love for a country they believe Kaepernick is disrespecting by kneeling during the national anthem. Before the anthem began Sunday, the crowd chanted “USA! USA!”
“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,” said Kaepernick, whose protest aims to bring attention to racial injustice in the country. “I see it as very patriotic and American to hold the United States to the standards it says it lives by.”
One report said that a fan threw a beer bottle at Kaepernick’s head as he was running off the field at halftime, but if it happened Kaepernick didn’t see it. “If they did, they didn’t have very good aim,” he said.
He noted that some fans approached him before the game and said they support him. As has been the case after every game this season, he shook hands with several opposing players – exchanging jerseys with Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin – who said they also respect what he’s doing.
Kaepernick said he received death threats after his protest became public in August but that they are “rare occurrences” now.
“Like I said from the beginning, I knew the consequences of what could come with it,” he said. “And I was prepared for that.”
He made his own fashion statement by wearing a shirt with Muhammad Ali, who died in June, emblazoned on it.
“He’s someone who helped pave the way for this to happen – what he did and what he stood for,” Kaepernick said. “People remember him more for that than as a boxer. I can’t let him die in vain. I have to try to carry that on, try to fight until we accomplish our goals.”
Minor takeaways: The 49ers hadn’t had a takeaway in their past two games until Arik Armstead dislodged the ball from Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor on Buffalo’s opening drive and DeForest Buckner recovered at the 28-yard line. The turnover was converted into a 33-yard Phil Dawson field goal, the 49ers’ first points of the game.
Armstead and Buckner started the game at defensive end and Quinton Dial played nose tackle, the first time the team had used that lineup to begin a game this season.
Buckner finished with two sacks while Armstead had one. The 49ers also recovered a fumble in Buffalo territory in the fourth quarter but couldn’t convert it into points.
Et cetera: Rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson left the game in the third quarter with a concussion. Keith Reaser took over on the outside from that point on and Dontae Johnson entered as the nickel cornerback.
▪ First-round draft pick Joshua Garnett made his first-ever start, replacing Andrew Tiller at right guard. Garnett was flagged for holding in the first quarter and allowed a sack in the fourth quarter.
▪ With 10 points on the day – three field goals and an extra point – Phil Dawson moved past running back Ken Willard into 11th place on the 49ers’ all-time scoring list.