RACINE — John Valko is “stepping aside” from his role as a co-owner of Reefpoint Brew House and apologized for the controversial Facebook comment he posted Monday.

Valko was engulfed in online controversy earlier this week after he wrote a comment on Facebook that suggested “killing” NFL players who knelt during the national anthem. In a statement Thursday, he apologized for his actions, saying that the community had “every right to condemn” the words he used.

“Today, I offer up my sincerest apology to every person, near and far, my wife, my family, my friends, Tom Landreman, Patti Landreman, Meagan Bennett and all the employees of the restaurant that have been hurt by words I used,” Valko said.

In a social media posting that has since been deleted, Valko advocated for the “killing” of NFL players who knelt during the anthem, as more than 200 did last weekend.

“Kill the idiot players,” Valko wrote. “Execute them. They are nothing but garbage. The league is screwed up if they think it is their right. It is their duty to respect our country and our flag. They should go kneel in front of a freight train. Shame on these stupid misfits of society. They need to die.”

Tom Landreman, who owns the restaurant, 2 Christopher Columbus Causeway, with Patti Landreman and Bennett, said Valko is stepping aside. Landreman added that Valko’s separation from the ownership group is still in progress.

Valko “deeply sorry”

In his apology, Valko denied that his comments had anything to do with race.

“Many are suggesting the comments were directed at people of color,” he said. “Be assured that is absolutely and positively not true. I accept responsibility for these comments.”

Valko also said he would seek counseling to address “whatever may have triggered this outburst.”

“I was wrong to have even let a thought such as this be put into text and I am ashamed,” he said. “They were offending and terrible words. I am deeply and regrettably sorry. I am not asking anyone to forgive me for what I have done. I am offering an apology and have been soul searching for a possible explanation for the angry and hateful words used.”

He added that he understands that it’s “unacceptable” to suggest killing anyone, “no matter how angry you might be feeling.”

“I am going to work hard in therapy, with a counselor to make sure that this never happens again,” Valko said. “There is nothing else I can do at this point other than to say I’m sorry. I am very, very sorry.”

Other owners distance themselves

In a statement posted on their business’ Facebook page Thursday, the owners again expressed their disagreement with Valko’s comments.

“We co-owners of Reefpoint Brew House do NOT support John Valko’s statements and comments made by him on his personal page or pages of others,” the owners wrote. “He is not the voice of Reefpoint Brew House or us. We are working hard internally to move forward and protect our selves, our business, and most importantly the 80 plus staff members’ and their families’ livelihood.”

That post also linked to an online news report, in which a reporter from another media outlet stated that the co-owners can’t simply fire Valko because of his ownership stake. Additionally, Patti Landreman delivers an additional statement on the owner group’s efforts in a video.

“We’ve put a lot of years into this to build a business, and it’s a great family business,” Landreman said. “We have a great staff with us as well that we’re here to battle for because that is not who we are.”

The Reefpoint co-owners have consistently distanced themselves from Valko’s comment since it began circulating on social media, but have also deleted at least three of their statements on the controversy on the restaurant’s Facebook page since Tuesday.

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