Robert “Free” Freeman graduated from Denbigh High School in 2001, where he played football with Antoine Bethea, who was drafted into the NFL and now plays safety for the New York Giants.
“Antoine has always played football and I’ve always done parties,” Freeman says. “He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime when we put two and two together and created District 41 Sports Bar, which opened on New Year’s Eve 2018.”
The sports bar’s name originates from their high school football days in the Peninsula District. Then Bethea attended Howard University in the District of Columbia and has been wearing the number 41 since he was drafted into the NFL in 2006.
“Anything Antoine did to support the community, I assisted in,” Freeman says. “He’s an excellent friend and great business partner.”
District 41 boasts an upscale décor, surrounded by walls of official jerseys signed by 757 athletes.
“It’s really something to come into District 41 and look up on the wall and see only 757 athletes from the area in one place. Our goal is to highlight the athletes and the sports history of the 757,” Freeman says.
District 41’s sports-themed menu features “Fan Favorites” including salmon shammies; truffle chicken alfredo; chicken and veggie lumpia; the burrito bomber filled with rice, black beans, chicken and shrimp, onions and peppers; and panko shrimp. The chicken wing sauces are made daily.
Lunch is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, and its District Deal lunch special is discounted 10 percent to businesses within a 10-mile radius.
District 41 crafts Fan Favorite specialty drinks such as its Henny Colada, AB41 Cover 4 Long Island, District Side-car and the Final Four. There are 24 beers on tap, including many from local breweries.
Promotions are always available: Happy Day is 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Monday features Tap-n-App specials; Tuesday’s Taco & Tequila; Wednesday’s Whiskey & Wings; Thursday’s Top Shelf; and Five Star Fridays, with discounts on wine bottles and wine glasses.
“I tell people to pick their fun, Monday through Friday,” Freeman says.
Other attractions include Paint Night on Tuesdays, Comedy Night on Wednesdays and Old School Happy Hour and Expression on Thursday nights.
“This gives seasoned patrons a place to hear music from their era,” Freeman says. “We have two experienced DJs who play music through different decades and one guest DJ weekly.”
District 41 features all PayPerView fights, NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, NHL Ice Package, etc. When you can’t find a game or fight somewhere else, you can see it at District 41.
Byron Goins, general manager, works with 25 employees to make District 41 the best it can be. “I believe in what Free and Antoine are doing for the community,” Goins says. “We work to benefit our patrons, including keeping our menu affordable.”
Ryan Dellinger is a knowledgeable bartender and ultimate team player. Server Sheila Francis goes above and beyond to make District 41’s customers feel at home.
Freeman continues his contribution to Bethea’s charitable community work in conjunction with the Antoine Bethea Family Foundation and/or his Safe Coverage Foundation. His football/cheer camps cater to young men and women. The sports bar does an in-house, free feeding for community members in need of a Thanksgiving meal. It also gave away 500 backpacks for young children to start the school year, including 145 to Bethea’s Lee Hall Elementary School. Bethea facilitated the construction of the area’s first lighted outdoor basketball court near Denbigh Community Center.
District 41 sponsors Deer Park Little League, Grafton/Tabb Cheer and multiple area youth organizations. It caters Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s yearly weekend event and Hampton University’s postgame meals for men and women’s basketball team.
“Antoine is willing to do anything to give back to the community,” Freeman says. “That’s a trait I learned while working with him. And I’ve learned a lot from his humanitarianism and professionalism. The opportunity he’s given me has allowed me to provide opportunity to other individuals who share the same mindset, goals, vision and energy. It’s easy to follow a great leader. He’s very hands-on with District 41, stopping by more than people think.”
“For me, the business is to give back to my community that has shown me so much love and support,” Bethea says. “It’s bigger than coming into a spot to provide food. It’s about giving people job opportunities and giving my friend the opportunity to do something he loves.”
Bethea is a 14-year NFL veteran and a three-time pro bowler, having been to two Super Bowls and winning one of them. He has been a Walter Peyton Humanitarian Award finalist three times and is leading the NFL in tackles amongst current, active players.
Rona Altschuler, her husband Alan and his coworker, Pam Mallory, lunch frequently at District 41. “We love the salmon salad,” Rona says. “And the staff always makes us feel welcome.”
“District 41 is all about opportunity, grace and love,” Bethea says.