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Businessman in Hot Water Over Post; Reminiscent of Earlier Threats Case

Updated on 9/27 to reflect D-A's comment.

A restaurant owner in Racine is in hot water over his posted reaction to NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.

"Kill the idiot players. They are nothing but garbage," wrote Reef Point Brew House co-owner John Valko on his Facebook page. In their own post, the restaurant's other owners quickly distanced themselves.

The story brings to mind a case that unfolded in Racine in the aftermath of the racially-motivated attack in Dallas two summers ago that left five police officers dead. Byron Cowan of Racine, upset with police killings of black men, was charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor after he suggested on line that black men "strap up" and "be first to shoot first."  

Cowan eventually pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and was placed on probation and ordered to perform community service. The felonies--battery or threat to a judge, prosecutor or a law enforcement officer and making terrorist threats--were dismissed. But by the time of sentencing, Cowan had spent three months in jail because he couldn't raise the $75,000 bond that had been ordered. 

At sentencing, Cowan was ordered off of social media for a year. After that, Cowan was to give his probation agent access to any social media accounts he held. 

Media outlets were unable to reach Valko Tuesday evening for comment. But he reportedly expressed no remorse for his controversial post in a message to a Facebook friend that was quoted online. "Don't have any idea what has to do with a restaurant and it may be horrifying to you but it was gratifying to many that feel the same way," the post reads. "When you disrespect our flag that is like spitting in my face and putting a dagger in my heart," he said. 

Responding to an email from WGTD, Racine County District Attorney Patricia Hanson said she does not believe that a criminal investigation into Valko's statements is warranted. "It is a crime to threaten a police officer, Judge or prosecutor in Wisconsin, but professional athletes are not included in the statute," she said.  

Some social media users called for a boycott of the restaurant.