I wondered how long it would take for the light bulb to go on.

National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday wrote a letter to all 32 league owners about the national anthem kneelers.

He said the “current dispute over the national anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country. ... Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem.”

“It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”

Before that, we saw this headline: “NFL Owners to Discuss Policy on Standing for Anthem.”

“The National Football League’s owners will discuss next week whether to unilaterally change league policy and require players to stand during the national anthem,” the Wall Street Journal  reported.

A league spokesman told the WSJ that owners will consider player input on the issue, but suggested that a rule change would not require player approval.

I wonder if these developments had anything to do with headlines like these: “Vikings Win But ‘Monday Night Football’ Ratings Hit Season Low.”

According to Deadline.com on Tuesday:

“Snaring a 7.0 in metered market results, last night’s Monday Night Football was down double digits from last week’s Kansas Chiefs’ 29-20 victory over the Washington Redskins. Down 17 percent in the ratings, that’s actually a regular game season low for the ESPN broadcast game. ...

Seriously, I don’t think the NFL could have handled this any worse if they tried.

Instead of getting ahead of the controversy way back when San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick started this fiasco, they sat back to see what would happen and then talk about changing the rules.

Really?

All they had to do was come out right away and say, “Hey, we get that you want to protest, but this is our brand and we don’t want you tarnishing it.”

The National Basketball Association already had rules in place for this type thing, so it’s not like the NFL was in some uncharted waters.

A couple of things about this controversy cause me to chuckle.

First of all, lots of people frame this as a freedom of speech issue. It isn’t. The government can’t restrict your freedom of speech unless it somehow infringes on the rights of others.

But the NFL isn’t the government. The NFL is an employer that can regulate the speech of their employees as they see fit.

Your employer can regulate your speech, too. If your boss hears you dropping angry f-bombs over the phone to a customer, you’re going to get written up. If you do it again, you’re going to get fired.

That is not an infringement on your right to free speech.

The other thing I found  amusing was how the media made a big deal of the “publicity stunt” Vice President Mike Pence and his wife pulled by leaving the game when 49ers players kneeled in Indianapolis.

It clearly was a publicity stunt. But isn’t kneeling for the national anthem during an NFL game a publicity stunt?.

Isn’t a publicity stunt, “when something is primarily done for mass attention, public support and influence, often pertaining to achieving and exercising positions of governance?”

Yeah, it is.

And isn’t that precisely what this whole mess is about?

Yeah, it is.

So sure, bag on the vice president and his wife. But then bag on all the kneelers, too.

“Yeah, but the vice president’s stunt was done at taxpayers expense,” you say.

True.

Depending on what source you check online – read that, what source hates Republicans more – the trip cost taxpayer between $88,000 (Huffington Post) and more than $1 million. (CBS News.)

But when you compare the level of taxpayer support for NFL teams nationwide, the veep’s stunt is a veritable bargain.

Watchdog.org reports that over the past two decades, the NFL has raked in about $7 billion of taxpayer money to spend on stadium renovation and building.

All this slathered on an outfit – the NFL – that pulled in $14 billion in revenue in 2016.

So if you want to talk about taxpayer-supported publicity stunts, the NFL kneelers win hands down.

Frankly, I am truly tired of all of it.

The only thing that concerns me in the NFL right now is the fact that Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are 4-1 and leading the NFC Central Division.

Go Pack!