WALLINGFORD — Back in September, Ed Ruszczyk posted a large sign outside his bar which read, “Due to the NFL’s disrespect to our nation’s flag, this sports bar will no longer televise any NFL games.”
He kept his promise all season, despite a loss of business.
Ruszczyk, owner of Grand Central Sports Bar, 76 Quinnipiac St., stopped showing NFL games because he was upset some players were not standing for the national anthem.
“I feel that the NFL is disrespecting the flag,” Ruszczyk told the Record-Journal in September. “A lot of veterans died because of that flag, so that NFL players could make millions of dollars playing football. If you’re a true American, you shouldn’t watch it.”
Ruszczyk said the football season is his most profitable time of the year and knew he could lose a lot of business. His prediction was correct.
“It kills my business,” Ruszczyk said. “Some die-hard NFL fans, they go to other bars — that’s their choice.”
He initially received a lot of support from veterans, which helped offset the lack of business on Sunday. But in the last few weeks, Ruszcyk said he’s gotten “no business.”
“But I don’t care. I am what I am and that’s how I feel,” said Ruszczyk, whose brother served in Vietnam.
“Every now and then I get someone that sees the sign and comes in and shakes my hand,” he added. “... it’s usually a veteran, someone that fought for our country.”
Ruszczyk is not sure if he’ll start televising NFL games next season, but knows he won’t be holding his annual Super Bowl party. He also no longer serves Budweiser on draft because of the company’s sponsorship ties with the league.
“He’s the type of person that will do something like that, whether it’ll hurt him or not, just because he’s so patriotic,” said Shay O’Brien, who has been bartending at Grand Central Sports Bar for five years. She agreed that not showing the games was the right decision.
Wallingford resident Bruce Biel also agreed with Ruszczyk’s decision and said he doesn’t miss watching the games when he’s at Grand Central.
“The NFL… their rules and what they stand for is so disjointed right now and they have no substance to their product at this point,” Biel said.
The trend of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem began last year when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
One weekend in September, over 200 NFL players knelt during the anthem to defy remarks made by President Donald J. Trump, who suggested players should be fired if they do not stand for the anthem.