ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Colin Kaepernick has taken a knee during the national anthem all season. That likely will not change Sunday when his San Francisco 49ers face the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field.
But after five weeks as the backup quarterback for San Francisco, Kaepernick has now earned the starting nod against Buffalo in Week 6.
So while all eyes will remain on the national anthem, the sixth-year quarterback will operate under more of a microscope when he takes the field with the first-team offense.
Kaepernick has said he's protesting racial inequality and a perception of systematic oppression of minorities in America, particularly as it relates to victims of police shootings.
A day ahead of the game, Bills fans already had strong views on Kaepernick as they mingled around their tailgate locations near the stadium. One fan said he likes what Kaepernick stands for, but "not how he presents it." Kaepernick should "respect that flag and respect our soldiers," he said.
Paula Wright, who was relaxing at a nearby tailgate spot on Saturday, said she does not have an issue with Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the anthem.
"I think the best thing about that is that we live in a country that we're allowed to really do whatever we want," Wright said, "without circumstances that are going to be harmful for us."
Karl Reed, who is African-American, offered some mixed opinions on Kaepernick outside the stadium. Reed traveled from Virginia this weekend to attend the game.
"I kind of agree with some of his views, because there's a lot that's been going on in this country," Reed said, "but I just think we should keep it away from football."
A group of activists are already planning to support Kaepernick by kneeling themselves during the anthem. They'll gather at Gate 5 outside of New Era Field, starting a few hours before kickoff. The organizations "Just Resisting (JR)" and "Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)" wrote in a Facebook post that "this action is designed to support Kaepernick, protest police brutality against Black people, and call on Rex Ryan to denounce his endorsement of Trump."
Caitlin Blue, a junior at the University at Buffalo, will join the groups in kneeling during the anthem.
"We're doing it to show that there are injustices," Blue said, "and what Kaepernick is doing is patriotic."
On the other end of the spectrum, the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester has been handing out free flags this week as they attempt to fill the stadium with red, white and blue.
"That flag just means so much to a veteran, means so much to law enforcement," Executive Director Todd Baxter said. "I'm not trying to make a statement against Colin. I'm just trying to make an opportunity for people to make their counterpoint heard and just do it in a respectful and dignified way, and I can't think of any better way than flashing that red, white and blue."