These NFL fans are boycotting. But it's not all for the reason you think

 Nancy Armour
  6th-Nov-2017

CHICAGO -- Any other year, the Chiefs-Cowboys game would have been playing on the three TVs behind the bar at The Velvet Lounge. Projected on the wall opposite the DJ booth, too. Not this year, though. Not as long as Colin Kaepernick remains persona non grata in the NFL, blackballed for beginning the player protests that have roiled the league and put it at odds with President Donald Trump and his hair-trigger tweets.

“(Kaepernick) just felt it in his heart to take on this fight, and we felt it was important to support him,” said Kenny Johnson, who won’t show NFL games at either of the two bars he owns in Chicago’s South Loop, The Velvet Lounge and The Bureau Bar, so long as Kaepernick remains unsigned.

Much has been made of the fans who have tuned out the NFL – or threatened to -- because of the protests during the national anthem. They’ve been vocal with their disgust and anger, claiming drops in TV ratings as a sign of their sway.Fearful of alienating them, some NFL owners have done everything but order their players to stand. And Jerry Jones might as well have, saying any member of the Dallas Cowboys who protests will be benched.

But there’s another group of fans who are boycotting the NFL for an entirely different reason. Supporters of Kaepernick and his efforts to draw attention to racism and discrimination, they’re incensed that the NFL has banished him.

“He’s standing up for (social justice). I’m going to stay right behind him,” said Bruce Burns, who has stopped watching the NFL and was spending his Sunday afternoon at The Velvet Lounge instead, listening to music.

The fury of fans like Burns might not be as apparent. But, in a warning sign to the NFL, it is no less intense.

A petition circulated before the season began that asked fans to boycott the NFL in support of Kaepernick got almost 200,000 signatures. Black0ut NFL, which advocates both a boycott of the NFL and for participants to put the time they would have spent watching games into working with kids, says its campaign message has been viewed more than 7 million times. A rally outside NFL headquarters two weeks before the season opener drew several hundred people. When Johnson saw the rally, he decided he wanted – needed – to do something, too. As an African-American man with young sons, Kaepernick’s complaints about biased policing had resonated with him.

“I’d been thinking, what can I do to be supportive of Colin Kaepernick?’” Johnson said. “I didn’t want to use the NFL, market the NFL like we traditionally do to make money on Sunday, Monday and Thursdays. It just took off from there.”

Johnson is not an entertainment mogul. The Velvet Lounge and Bureau Bar are his only bars, and both are small, neighborhood businesses located less than a mile from Soldier Field. By boycotting the NFL, he figured he’d be taking a financial hit. But as word of Johnson’s decision spread, people began stopping by his bars to drop off a couple of bucks or run up a healthy tab. The karaoke party that replaced Monday Night Football has become a big hit. A dreary Sunday afternoon at The Velvet Lounge looked more like a Friday night, with a DJ playing loud, thumping music while people mingled at the bar or crowded around tables with “reserved” signs on them.

Johnson also got calls from people who wanted to book events with him. One of those was Jon Kirby, a Chicago DJ who asked Johnson if he and some other DJs could do a show at The Velvet Lounge one Sunday. Two weeks ago, they held “Knee Deep. An NFL Blackout,” spinning records and showing DVDs from the Chicago Bulls’ championship runs. They also raised money for two Chicago charities that Kaepernick donated to as part of his $1 million giveaway.

“We wanted to be involved. We wanted to be able to do something and have it be part of that larger movement,” Kirby said. “(Sports) wasn’t the world we’re in, but we felt we wanted to lend our voice.”

Kirby is white, and finds it troubling that the protests and the reactions to them are often portrayed along racial lines. The issues that sparked the player protests should be of concern to all Americans, he said. “We have more in common than we have differences,” Kirby said. “That’s what these protests do: Bring together people who feel helpless.

“This is important for everybody. Being neutral is kind of dangerous,” he added. “We wanted to say, `What you’re doing is not in vain.’”

Johnson said he’ll end his boycott when someone signs Kaepernick. Until then, he’ll continue tuning out the NFL.

Views: 265
Domain: Afterhours
Category: Sports
Semiconductor Analytics
...
12 November, 2017