I wasn't going to address the NFL National Anthem protests, but the issue is so prominent I feel that I can't ignore it.  To begin with, I must point out that I am a patriot.  I honor my flag and stand at attention with my hand over my heart when The Star Spangled Banner is played.  When I was in uniform, I maintained a rigid salute until the last note sounded.  It offends me deeply to see people dishonor the flag and the anthem, sometimes to protest their perceived grievances, sometimes just because of their own ignorance or ambivalence.  Whatever the reason, it galls me.  It spits in the face of every service man and woman who put their lives in peril to protect the rights and way of life that makes the ability to protest possible.

I spent twenty-four years of my life protecting and serving the people of NYC.  I took an oath.  Along with swearing to put myself in harm's way to defend everyone, whether or not I agreed with their opinions or actions, I also swore to defend The Constitution of the United States of America.  This brings me to our most cherished rights, covered under the first amendment.  The founding fathers felt so strongly about protecting the right of free speech for its citizens, they made an amendment to specifically enumerate those rights, and the inviolable responsibility of the government to protect them.

The first amendment protects other things as well, like freedom of worship, a free press and the right to assemble peaceably, but for the purposes of this argument, free speech is the issue.  The fact of the matter is, in this country everyone has the God given right to voice their opinion.  As citizens, we each have a responsibility to respect those rights even if we don't agree--even if the speech offends us.  This right is so absolute, it makes the idea of hate speech a constitutional impossibility.  So long as no one is physically harmed, and violence against others is not encouraged, we must allow the wrong and ignorant to have their views, unpalatable as they may be.

However, as a citizen, I also have the right to disagree.  On the subject of using the National Anthem as a vehicle to protest anything, I disagree vehemently.  I think it unconscionable that a group of grown men who play a kid's game for a living, and know nothing but wealth and privilege, whose opinions are no more valid than my own, are hijacking their exposure for a purpose that was not intended.  They get to be ignorant on an epic scale.  I do not wish to infringe upon that right.  They can further a narrative of lies and act like imbeciles to their heart's content.  I just won't be paying attention to them.

I will be exercising a constitutional right of my own.  The commerce clause of the constitution protects me from having to do business with anyone I don't wish.  I cannot be compelled to purchase anyone's good or services.  The NFL is now in that category.  I will never again attend a game, even if given tickets.  I will not watch their product on TV.  I will not purchase another article of NFL merchandise, and I will discard the few items I already own.  As a lifelong Giants fan, this pains me deeply, but I will not subsidize a tax-exempt, multi-billion dollar conglomerate that cares so little about me they think they can tread all over my years of service and sacrifice, and besmirch the symbols of my liberty and the virtues they embody.  The NFL can do what it wants, but I will no longer pay for the privilege of being offended.

Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, not only condones this offensive behavior.  He encourages it.  He defends his players' right to express themselves.  He claims to have no authority to curtail the reprehensible behavior, but his slip is showing.  This is the same commissioner who threatened to fine and suspend players for wearing commemorative cleats in honor of the anniversary of 911, for fear of offending Muslim viewers .  This is the same commissioner who refused to allow the Dallas Cowboys to wear a helmet sticker in honor of the five Dallas Police Officers murdered while protecting a Black Lives Matter protest, and this is the same commissioner who refused to allow a player to wear pink cleats in memory of his mother's battle with breast cancer. 

The NFL has since madeOctober the official breast cancer awareness month.  Players are provided with all manner of pink gear to wear in games.  This includes cleats, gloves, wrist bands mouth pieces and towels.  Do not imagine they have an altruistic motive.  The NFL makes millions of dollars selling this gear to gullible fans.  This smacks of mercenary hypocrisy.  It is selective and arbitrary and altogether disgraceful.  If the commissioner wanted to stand on principle, he would do so.  Instead he picks and chooses who he will allow to be offended.  This is little more than vacillating cowardice. 

Before I end, I feel the need to point out one other thing.  President Donald Trump had a right to express his opinion.  Just as the players have a right to express theirs'.  However, his comments were decidedly un-presidential.  He has a responsibility to lead, and he shirked it to pick a fight.  Encouraging the owners to infringe upon the rights of their players simply because you don't agree with the message is a form of bullying.  As the Chief Executive, he is responsible to ensure the constitution is enforced.  Distasteful as defending hatred and stupidity might be, it is still the President's primary duty.  I am sorely disappointed he didn't rise to the occasion to point that out..

The time has come for ALL of us to take a deep breath.  The time to act like spoiled entitled children, intolerant of anyone who disagrees with us has long since past.  Instead of catering to and encouraging insolent children, the grown-ups need to be in charge again.  We all need to adult now.