While I admire the sentiments expressed by student Katie Hennessy in her recent letter, "NFL players have right to protest," it exemplifies and highlights the general ignorance, fostered by big media by omission, as to what our First Amendment actually prohibits and allows.

The First Amendment is plain as day. It states that Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, among other things. The syntax of those words should be clear to anyone who either has read or wanted to read the Bill of Rights. Most if not all of the first ten amendments to the Constitution (i.e., the Bill of Rights) have been interpreted by our courts over the last two hundred-plus years to impose obligations and prohibitions on government, not private citizens or entities. Thus a city mayor is prohibited from firing or harassing a city employee for openly campaigning against him for re-election, and the city cannot deny a parade permit to a group with "inappropriate" or unpopular views.

Nongovernmental persons or entities, however, are perfectly at liberty to take action against speech or expressions of opinion that they feel is inappropriate. And as much as there have been rather sheepish arguments put forth that the NFL or the Dallas Cowboys are "government actors" because they accept government subsidies, etc., the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys are all-too-obviously private sector, nongovernment actors. Goodell and Jones, while perhaps viewed as unsavory characters on other grounds, are perfectly free to enforce the players' Personal Conduct Policy for anything that "reflects poorly" (in other words, impacts the revenues) on the league or the team. All other things being equal, they can penalize or dictate the behavior of their players/employees without running afoul of the First Amendment.

Just like the hamburger chain manager can prohibit "offensive" speech or fire you for wearing earrings that say "poison." As the saying goes, "It's a free country;" but in terms of the First Amendment and the free marketplace, it's only as free as the boss says it is.

Michael McGrath Duran Sr.

attorney

Metairie