The co-owner of a Wisconsin restaurant has stepped down after commenting on social media that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should be killed.
Reefpoint Brew House in Racine faced a wave of backlash after John Valko posted the controversial statement to Facebook on Tuesday.
"Kill the idiot players. Execute them. They are nothing but garbage. The league is screwed up if they think it is their right. It is their duty to respect our country and our flag. They should go kneel in front of a freight train. Shame on these stupid misfits of society. They need to die," Valko wrote.
The post has since been deleted, but screenshots of the comment have been shared on social media.
The other owners of the restaurant — Meagan Bennet, and Tom and Patti Landreman — have distanced themselves from Valko, saying they do not agree with his comments.
“We co-owners of Reefpoint Brew House do NOT support John Valko's statements and comments made by him on his personal page or pages of others. He is not the voice of Reefpoint Brew House or us. We are working hard internally to move forward and protect ourselves, our business, and most importantly the 80+ staff members and their families [sic] livelihood,” the owners wrote on Facebook.
In response to Valko’s comments, the restaurant has received a lot of negative backlash, including threatening messages to their voicemail, Facebook page and email, Racine County Eye reports.
“Imagine how the employees feel about receiving these threats. We don’t know which ones to take seriously or not. But our next step is to turn to the police,” Tom Landreman said.
Valko agreed to step down from his position as co-owner Thursday. “John is no longer part of the business,” Landreman told Racine County Eye. “He’s agreed to step aside and he understands that he’s become a pariah. But I want to make it clear that we don’t agree with anything he said.”
Valko also issued an apology for his comments, which many have called racist, though Valko said they were “about having respect” for the country, the flag, and those who served in the military, and not racism or politics, according to Racine County Eye.
“Today, I offer up my sincerest apology to every person, near and far, my wife, my family, my friends, Tom Landreman, Patti Landreman, Meagan Bennett and all the employees of the restaurant that have been hurt by words I used. You all have every right to condemn the words I used. Those words should be condemned. I apologize to every person of every race, religion, creed, etc. that I have insulted, upset, ticked off or hurt because of the words I choose to use in this Facebook Post,” Valko said in his letter.