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Portland Deli Refuses to Show NFL Games in Response to #TakeAKnee

It’s experiencing the now-predictable backlash

Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals
Members of the Cowboys football team kneeling before the national athem
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A Portland deli owner is facing backlash for electing not to show NFL games inside his business this season, in response to some NFL players’ decisions to kneel during the national anthem in an act of protest. As WWeek reports, Iraj "Ira" Rafei elected to ban NFL games from his Cully restaurant, Iras Deli: “I deeply believe in our flag, in the national anthem,” Rafei, an Iranian immigrant and U.S. military veteran, told WW. “It’s a matter of respect."

When reached by Eater via phone, Rafei said, “People keep calling. I am a veteran, and I just want to run a business.” He added a polite thank you, before abruptly hanging up.

According to WW, Rafei had to flee the Islamic Revolution in Iran and emigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s. During the first Gulf War, Rafei enlisted in the U.S. military to serve as a translator.

In today’s political climate, Rafei’s decision obviously led to signs of support and protest, both on Yelp and, according to WW, the Cully neighborhood’s private NextDoor social network — and now in the comments on its original article.

This is a case of a protest in response to protests. The First Amendment grants the right to freedom of speech and to assemble. That means both the NFL players and Rafei have the constitutional right to protest whatever they do not believe in.

But there’s another reality dawning across the country: Consumers are becoming more informed, and, as a result, they are taking more care in choosing where they spend their money. If a business — whether the NFL or a neighborhood deli — does not reflect a customer’s values, that customer may very well boycott that business.

Or as one Yelper posted:

And another posted in the comments section of the WW coverage:

And the next time I'm in NE, I'll check out Ira's. An immigrant who served for his new country should be supported.

Here’s another take on the deli’s decision:

More power to him. I support the right for businesses to do as they please within the law. The NFL players can also do as they wish during the anthem, although personally I think it is BS that all of these previously non-political, high paid athletes living the dream are now acting like they give 2 shits about something political / human rights based. It has become more of a bandwagon thing than anything else, but it's their right.

And another:

This is my neighborhood deli and convenience store and I come into Ira's often. I don't agree with Ira's politics even the slightest, but I also know that he's a kind, gentle soul who is wonderful to everyone in the neighborhood and whose business does a lot of good for Roseway families.

Knowing him, I believe that his stance on the NFL protest is swayed heavily by our president's misrepresentation that this is an attack on servicemen and servicewomen, rather than what the protest truly stands for.

And in true Portland fashion, a moderator for the Cully neighborhood’s NextDoor does a great job of showing support for neighbors and the local business:

I'm a moderator of NextDoor in that neighborhood, and a frequent customer of Ira's. I believe that the article above misrepresents the attitude of the neighborhood on this (and I'd love to know where you got that quote, given that ND is a closed forum).

While many, probably most, of the neighbors who have discussed this disagree with Ira's position on the NFL games, there isn't any general boycott in the offing. Given Ira's history, we understand that he personally feels deeply uncomfortable witnessing a protest during the anthem. The person you quoted was the most extreme opinion posted during that discussion, and not representative of the whole.

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