An Unlikely N.F.L. Collision Between Protest and Politics


Bills Coach Rex Ryan, left, introduced Donald J. Trump, now the Republican presidential nominee, at a campaign rally in Buffalo in April.

Brendan Bannon for The New York Times

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — There is the blustery coach who introduced Donald J. Trump at a rally. There is the quarterback whose peaceful pregame protests are the story of the N.F.L. season. There is the Supreme Court justice who called the demonstration “dumb” and “disrespectful.” And there is the smart, thoughtful, relevant reference to the scientific discourse of pathology (from, in case you were wondering, the quarterback).

The so-called intersection of sports and politics has seemed to morph into a full-blown five-lane merge in recent months, but its center — at least for the moment — appears to be here, just outside Buffalo, where the San Francisco 49ers will visit the hometown Bills this Sunday.

To most, the matchup is unremarkable. But Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco quarterback whose decision to not stand for the national anthem as a protest against racial injustice in…

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