Two weeks after the Carolina Panthers’ decision to sign Eric Reid — a player who knelt in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem — an Alabama grocer is saying, enough. In a post on his Facebook this week, the owner of S&Z Grocery in Athens, Ala., said he chose to physically remove 20-ounce Pepsi and Diet Pepsi from his shelves after seeing that they had the NFL logo.
“These two items are currently produced with the NFL logo on them,” Phillip Stewart, the owner of S&Z, wrote on Facebook this week. “I refuse to sell the product until the logo is removed. I will not bow down in order to make a dollar as long as the athletes are allowed to bow down and disrespect the flag and country that I love.”
Support for the decision has poured into Stewart’s Facebook post, with users from nearby states saying they would travel to shop at his store. “So Proud of you and standing up for your beliefs,” wrote Dean Soderberg, a user who posted an American flag below his response. “If I ever drive through your community, I will stop and will fill my truck with groceries from your fine store,” another user, Harko DeBoer, added. “God Bless and thanks from a conservative still living in California.”
While the majority of comments were positive, not everyone was on board with the decision. Others pointed out that the kneeling movement started by Kaepernick is actually aimed at protesting police brutality. “You are being willfully ignorant here. The men protesting aren’t disrespecting the flag at all. Maybe educate yourself about the actual issue in question,” wrote a user named Jim Scott. “Then if you still feel this way it isn’t because of a flag, it’s because you don’t care that black men and women are being murdered by police across the country. Own it, and be honest about why you’re really doing this. Otherwise you’re just another racist hiding behind the flag. Now that’s disrespectful.”
Stewart did not reply to Yahoo Lifestyle’s attempts to get a comment, nor did Pepsi.
But in an interview with local news station WAFF48 this weekend, he elaborated on the decision to pull the sodas. “I don’t want to support them in any way, because I feel like it’s just wrong,” Stewart told WAFF48. “I can’t in good conscience sell the product, because it does have the logo on it. I pulled them myself, the customers didn’t know I was doing this. … And I told my rep as well as the delivery guy that I did not want those brought into the store, because I would not sell them.”
While Stewart may be making waves for his move, he’s not the first to amend his inventory over Kaepernick. In September, multiple store owners and others nationwide announced that they were banning Nike products from their stores or not buying them after the company aired an ad in which Kaepernick says, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 5, 2018
Pepsi has not spoken out publicly in support of Kaepernick, but it is seven years into a 10-year, $1 billion marketing deal with the NFL.