SOUTH LOOP — Two bars near Soldier Field say they will stop showing NFL games until Colin Kaepernick is back on the gridiron.
Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak Road, and The Bureau Bar, 75 E. 16th St., announced their NFL boycott on social media Wednesday in support of the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who kneeled during the national anthem last year in protest of police brutality against black people.
Kaepernick, now a free agent, has remained unsigned in what supporters believe is a conspiracy among NFL owners to keep him out of the league and suppress his message.
Kaepernick supporters have even begun rallying outside the NFL's headquarters in New York to protest the perceived blackballing.
"Every bar benefits from football games ... this is more about right and wrong," said Kenny Johnson, who lives in the South Loop and owns both bars. "We'll take a hit, but be OK."
Johnson said it "just didn't sit well" with him that Kaepernick "can't get a job when he's better than a number of quarterbacks who have jobs." As a black man, Johnson said he and many of his friends have been unfairly profiled by police before.
"This was a way to make a statement," Johnson said. "Hopefully something changes and I would encourage other bars to do this also."
Kaepernick's protests have certainly drawn detractors, too. Former Bridgeport Ald. Jim Balcer (11th) led a group of veterans to protest Kaepernick's appearance at Soldier Field when the Bears hosted the 49ers last year.
The Bureau Bar, open since 2013, is a relatively new neighborhood watering hole that bills itself as "the South Loop's post-work destination."
Velvet Lounge first opened in the '80s as a jazz bar on Indiana Avenue, but has since moved to Cermak and now focuses on hip-hop and comedy shows.
"We'll do something else on [football] nights," Johnson said. "What I'm doing is small in comparison to what some people have to do to speak out."