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This article contains explicit content.
For the first time since he stirred national debate by kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial injustice, Colin Kaepernick on Sunday took to a football field as the San Fancisco 49ers’ starting quarterback.
He joined the lineup for an away matchup against Buffalo that was bound to stoke tensions outside the stadium as well as inside it. It was painfully clear from the outset that tailgating Bills fans had taken sides in the ongoing controversy, with many in the anti-Kaepernick camp sporting questionable T-shirts, signs, and slogans. Some images even put the guy in crosshairs, and one group was observed tackling an effigy with an Afro.
Fans saying “F— you, Kaepernick!” on the concourse. Some fans tried to get a similar chant started. No go.
— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) October 16, 2016
A photo posted by Angelica Martino (@amartini) on
Meanwhile, there was also a #WokeTailgate, in addition to a small Black Lives Matter march and various related demonstrations.
Kaepernick himself arrived in a Muhammad Ali shirt—paying homage to another black athlete who became a political icon of pacifist resistance—and was greeted with expected boos when he made his big entrance.
A photo posted by NFL on ESPN (@espnnfl) on
He of course knelt during the anthem, triggering further crowd response.
U-S-A chants ring out as anthem begins in Buffalo with Kaepernick on knee
— Cam Inman (@CamInman) October 16, 2016
Led by Kaepernick, the 49ers offense looked solid in the first half, with the backup quarterback going 8-of-11, including a 53-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Torrey Smith. But despite outscoring Buffalo initially, the Bills continued to run roughshod over the 49ers defense, heading into halftime ahead 17-13. Win or lose, it could get ugly in the parking lot afterward. Especially considering stuff like this happened before the game:
When will Kaepernick quit soiling the dignity of a sport whose fans chug beer out of each other’s butts? That’s anyone’s guess, really.
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'