The football community found itself surrounded by political debate last week after the President of the United States criticized NFL players who protest police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.
President Trump called on NFL fans to boycott the games until the league changes their policy on standing during the anthem.
This sparked a nationwide debate on whether kneeling during the anthem was disrespectful to the men and women who have served the country or if the football players turned activists do not mean disrespect, but instead hope to raise awareness and bring a stop to police brutality.
The dispute came to Santa Clarita after the Vincenzo’s Pizza in Saugus announced via email that it will not be showing NFL games on Sundays as of October 1.
“As a family owned business, we do not [believe] that disrespect for the American Flag or for our National Anthem is the way to express those concerns,” said Vincenzo’s Saugus in the email newsletter.
Almost immediately, the email drew both criticism and support on social media and throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.
“I have spent the last 24 hours respectfully answering those who strongly disagree with our policy. I will listen until the cows come home, but when I am called a racist I stop listening.
“Your point is exactly what we are trying to say. We simply sent an innocuous note to our subscribing email customers explaining why we would no longer carry NFL Sunday Ticket. Let’s have this conversation without including the Anthem or the flag. Thank you for getting it,” said the manager in a Facebook comment made under the Vincenzo’s Pizza, Saugus account.
The management of Vincenzo’s Saugus declined to comment.
SCV resident Erin Kotecki Vest, responded directly to the email in hopes that the restaurant would reconsider.
“This is meant to bring the discussion about what’s happening to men of color and to people of color. If that’s what has to be done to get this conversation going, then that’s what has to be done” said Kotecki Vest.
“The act of protest is supposed to make her uncomfortable. It’s supposed to make you think about things that you’d rather push out of your mind. There’s nothing about this that should make you like what’s going on.”
In support of the Saugus pizzeria’s decision, was co-host of the connectingRight Radio Show, Sean Griffin.
“I think society makes it seem like it’s alienating a group when really they’re standing up and saying ‘we don’t think its right to disrespect the national anthem,’” said Griffin in an interview with the Signal.
“It’s kind of the same argument that the left will say that just because they’re kneeling during the national anthem doesn’t mean they’re disrespecting the national anthem.
“I think the reverse can be said that just because they’re supporting people who aren’t kneeling doesn’t mean that they’re going against the cause for kneeling.”
Over at the Vincenzo’s Newhall location, owner Steve Katz disagrees with the boycott and will be showing all NFL games come Sunday.
I think a restaurant is a place that people come [where] you shouldn’t have to be right or left or center,” said Katz. “I don’t think restaurants taking a position on politics is a good idea for that restaurant. You’re only going to alienate a section of people and upset them.”
When asked if he expects a larger crowd on football Sunday, Katz said, “No. I don’t expect a smaller crowd either. I expect business as usual.”
Vincenzo’s Pizza Saugus is the only restaurant in Santa Clarita so far that has taken a stand against the NFL.
Instead, the restaurant will be donating 15 percent of their gross sales this Sunday to charities for wounded veterans and first responders.