Phillip Stewart, owner of S&Z Grocery in Athens, Alabama made an announcement on Facebook. “I may lose customers over this,” he said. He went on to explain that he had noticed his latest shipment of Pepsi products featured the NFL emblem. “I won’t bow down,” he said. “Not as long as athletes are allowed to bow down and disrespect the flag and the country that I love.” His post back in October of 2018 drew nearly two thousand comments with most of Stewart’s friends and customers in support of his decision.
NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, became the center of controversy when he chose to kneel during the nation anthem back in 2016 in protest of disproportionate police brutality against people of color. The nation’s reaction is divided between people who saw the move as unpatriotic and disrespectful to our nations veterans and others who say that Colin consulted a veteran prior to his protest and determined that kneeling would be considered a sign of respect. Many feel that corporations who continue to endorse the NFL are guilty of disrespect as well. This debate has been renewed recently following the death of George Floyd. Floyd died when an officer used excessive force, placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes while Floyd stated multiple times, “I can’t breathe,” and begged for his mother. Others claim their main issue with kneeling at NFL games is that the players are being paid to play, not protest. People in this camp say they protesting is a right, but players should do it on their own time.
Stewart seems to fall in the latter category, stating, “I just don’t agree with the tactic,” though he did acknowledge that Kaepernick’s protest had brought awareness and that some good may come of it. He then went on to say that he will continue to sell Pepsi products, just not any products with the NFL emblem on the label. Comments on the post were split.
W. Faye Ingram wrote, “How did taking a knee [to] protest the killing of innocent people disrespect the flag? The flag is a symbol of bravery and the protection of this country and [its] citizens. I’m from Athens, but there’s no chance of you losing me as a customer, because I’ve never heard of your little grocery store. Wish you the best, because everyone in this country has a right to protest whatever they don’t like about this country.” Meanwhile, a Mr. Jason Stewart said, “This man does donate to multiple things. Sponsor Christmas for underprivileged families. Loses money [nonstop] allowing people to charge knowing he may never get it back. Always has been a giver, and the NFL has never given a dime to anything.”