A Louisiana restaurant is facing public backlash after management announced it would not be airing the Saints football game on Sunday. WOW Cafe & Wingery in St. Bernard Parish was taking a stand against several NFL players who had made the decision to sit out the national anthem, according to the New York Daily News. The so-called “take the knee protests” were a reaction to racial injustice and statements made earlier in the week by president Donald Trump.
In a statement on the restaurant’s social media pages on Sunday, restaurant owner Brook Songy Anastasiadis wrote that the players’ protests during the anthem “will not be supported or praised at WOW.”
The Louisiana Saints players were among many members of the NFL who chose to sit out, take a knee, or lock arms in solidarity with other players on September 24 during the anthem. Free agent and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick pioneered taking the knee last year as a protest of police brutality and racial injustice. However, the practice drew the ire of some sports fans and critics as disrespectful, with many calling for politics to stay outside of sports.
The controversy was renewed again earlier this week during a rally in which Trump stated that players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired and that NFL owners should say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now.” The direct attacks by the President of the United States did not sit well with many players and leaders in the NFL who took to the field on Sunday to unite against injustice and attacks on freedom of speech.
Public reactions to WOW Cafe’s statement, which has been shared more than 2,000 times and garnered more than 1,000 comments, seem to straddle the current divide in the country over race and politics. “So no respect to the family of the people these cops are killing for no reasons... Wow y’all something else smh...” one commenter wrote. Another praised the decision by writing, “We chose to no longer spend our money on anything related to the NFL again, ever. However, we will be frequenting your restaurant. BRAVO.”
Others turned to the restaurant’s Facebook reviews page, which in the past 24 hours has fetched dozens of one-star and five-star ratings, based on each commenter’s opinion on the issue. The Yelp page, previously only home to a handful of mediocre ratings, is also becoming a sounding board for public reactions. At least 10 one-star reviews have bombarded the page so far, meaning that Yelp cleanup crews will likely be on their way soon.
In a statement released this morning by WOW Cafe, the owner doubled down on her decision not to air the game:
I stand behind my decision and I want to make this clear, the sole reason that I didn’t air the game is because I feel the players disrespected the National Anthem and that is something I hold dear to my heart. That’s how I was raised, I have family members who served our great country in the military and I was taught to respect the National Anthem, the flag, the military and people in general.
Ray Sutherlin, a spokesperson for the restaurant, says that the owner “did not intend to start a firestorm.” He says, “The players exercised their right not to stand for the national anthem and she exercised her right not to air the game because of their actions. The freedom goes both ways.” He also pointed to Anastasiadis’ recent fundraising efforts for two St. Bernard Parish deputies who were critically injured in an ATV accident.
“We won’t ever all agree on these sensitive topics and I understand that,” Anastasiadis said, acknowledging the positive and negative feedback she’s received since the posting. “On the other hand, I strongly believe in the support of our country, our flag, the military, the national anthem and I always will.”
Even before Sunday, some restaurants and bars were tuning out during NFL games in support of Colin Kaepernick, who has yet to find a new team. Two bars in Chicago confirmed in August that they would be boycotting the football league due to the NFL’s handling of Kaepernick’s situation.
However, since Sunday’s protests many other bars have begun taking sides on the issue. The owner of Palmetto Restaurant and Ale House in Greenville, South Carolina told the AP on Tuesday that the restaurant would not show NFL games until “all players pay respect to the American flag and the country.” Hemingway’s in Galveston, Texas announced on Monday that it would no longer air Pittsburgh Steelers games on its TVs. “As you are also aware, we love us some football here. But there comes a time to take a stand,” the bar wrote in a statement on Facebook. “From this day forward we will not show ANY Pittsburgh Steelers games. I don’t care if they are playing the Texans. I don’t care if they make the Super Bowl. Wrong bar.”
• Louisiana Restaurant Doesn’t Show Saints Game Because of National Anthem Protests [NYDN]
• Galveston Bar Stops Showing Steelers Games After National Anthem Protests [EHOU]
• Colin Kaepernick Inspires Two Chicago Bars to Boycott NFL [ECHI]
• All Sports Coverage [E]
This post has been updated to reflect new information and was originally published on September 25 at 12:02 p.m.