Colin Kaepernick said Tuesday the level of support – and the volume of ridicule – for his national anthem protest has varied from city to city this season, with the 49ers’ most recent trip being the most friendly.
“That’s something to me that was very evident depending on where we’re playing,” the quarterback said Tuesday. “Atlanta was somewhere where I had a lot of support, a lot of people saying they agree with what I’m doing, support it and are happy that I did it and to keep going and to stay strong. And there’s other places where the fans don’t agree as much.”
At the top of the inhospitable list: Buffalo, where Kaepernick made his first start of the regular season Oct. 16. That game began with a thunderclap of boos when Kaepernick took the field for the first time. Plenty of abuse also was shouted from the stands. Before the game, T-shirts with Kaepernick in the crosshairs of a rifle scope were sold around the stadium.
“You hear a lot of crazy stuff,” wide receiver Quinton Patton said after the game. “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.”
Kaepernick has knelt during every pregame anthem ceremony this year to protest how minorities are treated in the United States, particularly by police. The quarterback is biracial and his adopted family is white. He said the varied receptions he’s received largely fall along racial lines.
“It shows the different cultures and different beliefs throughout this country,” he said Tuesday, “and it also makes it very evident that there’s a difference in perspective between white America and black America.”
Linebacker Eli Harold, who has knelt alongside Kaepernick, said the rancor over the protest was so vicious early in the season he deleted all the social media apps from his phone. He’s also had heated exchanges with people he considered friends.
“They kind of attacked me a little bit. I was kind of shocked,” he said. “But that kind of stuff is going to happen when you do something this big. Everyone’s not going to agree with you. That’s life.”
Harold comes from Virginia Beach, Va., which has a large military population. He said many have seen the protest as an affront to the military.
Harold has two uncles who served during the Vietnam War and other relatives who are now in the military. He said he’s received uniform support from his family.
“I’m trying to tell (detractors): It’s not about the military; it’s about other issues,” Harold said. “And, again, not everyone’s going to agree with you, whatever you’re doing. But a lot of people showed their true colors. People I thought cared about me really weren’t in my corner.”
Safety Eric Reid also knelt during the national anthem until he went on injured reserve because of a torn biceps Nov. 22. As many as five 49ers raised their right fists in protest during the ceremony at one point this season, although none has done so for weeks.
The 49ers’ road schedule will end in Southern California, where Kaepernick’s protest first caught fire. He was booed heavily during the team’s preseason finale in San Diego on Sept. 1. On Saturday, the 49ers will play the Rams in Los Angeles for the first time since Sept. 18, 1994.
What kind of reception will he and Harold get?
“I’m not too sure,” Kaepernick said. “It’ll depend on the crowd that’s there that day. So we’ll wait and see.”