Louisville Pub Enters the National NFL Protest Conversation

TK's Pub in Louisville Enters the National NFL Protest Conversation
Image: Facebook

TK’s Pub in Louisville is the latest small business to enter the NFL protest fray after owner Todd King announced yesterday he is removing all NFL paraphernalia from his restaurant. His stance mirrors that of many other white conservatives: that black athletes should not be allowed to protest racial injustice by silently kneeling during the national anthem.

“We don’t like the protests of the American flag and the national anthem,” King told WHAS11 in an interview. “The flag and the Pledge of Allegiance is bigger than the game. The game is entertainment.  The flag is not entertainment,”

Photo: WHAS11

Lost in his response is the nuance of compelling players to engage in patriotic displays as a part of said entertainment – something the federal government hoisted on the NFL when they paid parts of the league for “patriotic displays” beginning less than a decade ago. Prior to federal intervention, players typically stayed in their locker rooms or on the sidelines during the national anthem – something fans like Todd King never seemed to have a problem with until this past year.

In their story, WHAS11 offered a small bit of irony in King’s protest of black athletes protesting:

Gone is a Cleveland Browns helmet signed by former UK quarterback Tim Couch replaced by the American flag.  His customers are supporting the move, many wanting to watch football without the politics.

“It’s a time when you get to sit down with a bowl of popcorn and a Budweiser and sit with your friends and just have a good time,” said Dan Seum Jr.

That’s right – customers will still be able to watch football at the bar despite the ongoing protests. King wanted to make as small a gesture as possible to show his disrespect for black athletes trying to shed light on racial injustice while still reaping the benefits of having them as entertainment for his pub patrons.

As an aside, the fact that King replaced his NFL decorations with an American flag shouldn’t go unnoticed as using the flag as decoration is a more significant violation of flag code than kneeling during the anthem (as flag code explicitly forbids the flag being used as decoration while noting people should – not must or shall – stand during the pledge and anthem).

A final comment King made to WHAS11 sums up the hypocrisy of the situation. “To see players take a knee, that take all this kind of money and get tax breaks to build stadiums, ridiculous,” King said.

To wit, players do not receive tax breaks; teams do as a whole – as in the organizations, not the individual players. And the larger organization of those teams decided against forcing individual players to stand during the anthem this past week. Rather than protest the owners by turning off his television and protesting the league as a whole, King is taking his misplaced anger out on the players engaging in employer-condoned, constitutionally-protected peaceful protests that have no adverse side effects on the actual game.

And in the process King is ignoring the reason for those protests while propping up the symbols of freedom above the actual freedoms they represent. Perhaps more egregiously, King does know and simply doesn’t care about black athletes protesting systemic racism and racial injustice.

In an interview with WDRB, he said, “American values … this is what people have fought and died for, and we’re a strong believer in that and supporting it,” Todd King said. “And we’ll replace it with an American flag and a Cops Lives Matter flag, because that’s all important to us here.”

People are not born as cops nor do they have innate characteristics that make their lives law enforcement related. The association of that profession with a modified version of Blue Lives Matter – a phrase that emerged as a race-based response to Black Lives Matter (the movement originated from the disproportionate targeting and killing of unarmed persons of color) says more about King’s actions than the actual act of removing NFL decorations.

Why is it appropriate for King to use his place of business to protest in favor of police while it isn’t for NFL players to protest racial injustice in their place of employment with their league’s permission? Both are constitutionally-protected forms of expression and speech, but King only seems to have a problem with one of the two.

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Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.

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