Monday, September 14, 2009

Bar Owner's Boycott of Philadelphia Eagles Receives Mixed Reviews

The day highly anticipated by football fans everywhere has finally arrived. Today marks the opening day of the 2009 NFL season.

From now until the Super Bowl, sports enthusiasts will gather around the TV to watch their favorite teams battle it out. Whether it is in one’s family room, neighbor’s house or the local sports bar, gathering to watch Sunday afternoon or Monday night football is a tradition in this country.

But what if your favorite team signs a player who has just been released from prison, and in protest of that player’s behavior the local sports bar refuses to air any game in which that team plays? That is the case at Slate’s Prime Time Grill and Sports Bar just north of Sandpoint in Ponderay. Slates, which has 20 HD television screens throughout the bar and restaurant, is a favorite of many sports enthusiasts in this area.

Steve Coffman, the owner of Slate’s, has made it known that he is disgusted that the Philadelphia Eagles have signed Michael Vick, the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback who was just released from federal prison, where he served 18 months in addition to six months of house arrest on charges of running a dogfighting operation.

The case brought national attention to the extreme cruelty bestowed upon man’s best friend. Evidence showed that if dogs did not perform according to expectations, Vick and others violently killed them by means such as hanging, drowning and electrocution.

Coffman is an animal lover and has joined other restaurant and bar owners in the nationwide Sack Vick campaign – boycotting all Philadelphia Eagles games as well as the team’s corporate sponsors.

As part of the campaign, Web sites are marketing T-shirts stating things like “Hide your beagle, Vick’s an Eagle” and “Hey, Michael, how would you like to be hung, electrocuted or drowned for not performing well enough?”

But with scandals such as famed quarterback Brett Favre’s addiction to painkillers in the 1990s – and more recently Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth, who was involved in a DUI vehicular manslaughter incident which landed him a full year suspension – what is the surprise of another NFL player falling from grace? After all, if sports bars were to boycott every team whose players were in trouble with the law, they would in all likelihood not be showing many games.

Although phone calls to Coffman went unreturned, the Slate’s owner has said in television interviews that this is the final straw – “enough is enough,” he told one television reporter.

But what do Sandpoint residents feel about this move?

Martin Rodriguez of Sandpoint is a die-hard football fan, and while he says he thinks Vick should have served more time than he did, he also does not agree with boycotting a team because of a crime for which a player has served time.

“Obviously they (the Eagles) signed a player who had done something wrong, but he did serve his time,” said Rodriguez. “I don’t know what else people want him to do.”

But as Coffman told a television news reporter last month, “How can I cheer for a team or a player, knowing what he’s done? It seems like they get in trouble, get a slap on the hand by the commissioner, and they’re back playing sports, making millions of dollars.”

In a time when businesses are doing all they can to make a profit, the fact that Steve Coffman is boycotting the Philadelphia Eagles and its sponsors is refreshing. If more people stood up for what they believe in and made a statement even when it has the potential of costing them business, perhaps the NFL would not be signing convicted felons. Mr. Coffman, I, for one, applaud you.

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