The Truth About Buffalo Wild Wings' National Anthem Controversy

Does Buffalo Wild Wings have a policy to silence the national anthem at the beginning of televised sporting events? Hardly. Did a BWW employee really turn down the volume at the beginning of an NFL football game, to mute the anthem on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks? Reports of that incident, which spread quickly online, turned out to be mostly true. But the internet did what it usually does. It got a little carried away with the story.

Sept. 11, 2017 was opening night for Monday NIght Football. The NFL plays two games on the first Monday of the season, and controversy struck like lightning at the start of game 2 at the Eastvale, California Buffalo Wild Wings. An employee muted the TV sets when the anthem started, apparently sparking confusion if not outrage among customers. One patron told CBS Los Angeles that the employee said the anthem was "too controversial," and he turned down the volume according to company policy.

Both the owner of the Eastvale franchise and Buffalo Wild Wings' corporate office apologized. "We do not have a policy regarding this matter," the franchisee said. "We don't know why he did that, and we wish he hadn't done it" (via Snopes). "This was the action of one individual and does not reflect our corporate practice," the B-Dubs website stated.

Calls to boycott Buffalo Wild Wings were misguided

For months after the incident, people on social media were spreading misinformation about what happened. Many Twitter users with a conservative bent confused the decision of one rogue employee with corporate policy, despite the company's clear statements to the contrary. They pointed the finger in some cases at the Eastvale location's manager, when in fact media accounts referred only to an employee. Lori, the disgruntled customer who went on the TV news, even said the restaurant's manager apologized immediately for the employee's action. Online, several people asked their social-media followers to boycott Buffalo WIld Wings, even though the CEO of the Eastvale franchise was a military veteran who "could not be more disappointed about this incident" (via Snopes).

At least one person weighed in online who was more left of center — or who just had a twisted sense of humor. He announced on Twitter, on the first Sunday of the 2018 season, that he planned later that day to kneel during the national anthem at B-Dubs.

Athletes use anthem to protest police violence against black people

Lori gave her thoughts on the matter to CBS Los Angeles on-camera: "It's 9/11. It's a sporting event. Why is it controversial?" She was overlooking the fact that controversy has dogged the national anthem and the NFL since the 2016 season, spurred on by President Donald Trump. Colin Kaepernick, an NFL player, started kneeling during the anthem in 2016 to protest the country's oppression of black people, including repeated cases of police officers killing unarmed black Americans. Hundreds of players joined Kaepernick's protest that season (via Vox). Seventy percent of NFL players are black.

The NFL's top brass called for fines of players who protested during the anthem but changed its tune recently, in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. "We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," Commissioner Roger Goodell tweeted days after Floyd's death. This recent killing of a black person at the hands of police led to massive protests in more than 100 cities across the country (via The New York Times).