I used to turn to the NFL for fun and excitement. It was my escape from the everyday grind and troubles of life.

Football was a time to gather with friends, scarf down nachos and wings with our favorite libations, cheer for our teams and the players we loved, gripe at the bad calls, and enjoy the competition, strategy, and athleticism on the field. Football was more than “watching a game,” it was an event, an activity, a party.

I have fond memories of watching Monday Night Football with my dad, and he’d let me stay up late on school nights to watch Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford and Dandy Don Meredith call the games. We’d sit in recliners, drink soda and eat popcorn, and watch star quarterbacks like Terry Bradshaw or Roger Staubach pilot their teams to victory.

When I grew up, Dad and I would meet out for lunch and catch the 1 o’clock game together, which he called “church.” We’d have a few brews at the bar and down chicken sandwiches served in paper-lined baskets. It was a special time.

I’m sure Dad is turning in his grave right now at the thought that the NFL is not a game but a protest.

Thanks to the USA, the country whose flag and anthem they scorn by kneeling, they enjoy an incredible life, a dream life, in fact, where they can do what they love, be adored by millions, and earn salaries beyond most people’s wildest dreams.

But, don’t call me a ‘racist.’

I love my friends of all colors, races, nationalities and such. I’m not a racist, but I’m being called that because my ancestors were born in Germany and France and I have white skin, and I grew up in the suburbs, and I have two cars, and a big house, and a college degree…

Yes, I have a life of privilege . And, I have often used those privileges to help those less fortunate, as is my God-directed duty. But, it doesn’t make a me a hater.

I understand there is suffering. And, I stand with those who are hurting right now. I stand and fight with them, just as I do my gay friends and family members against homophobia.

But, I can’t take on the burden of punishment for the crime I didn’t commit. That’s not fair.

I just want to enjoy a game, and not be singled out as a racist, which I’m anything but.

These are sad days for NFL football. It’s no longer an escape. It’s no longer about gifted players making impressive plays at which we marvel and cheer. It’s no longer a joyous reprieve from deadlines and meetings and overdue electric bills.

Since I don’t need more stress in my life, I won’t be tuning in. No more NFL for me. I need an escape from the trials of life, not a lecture.

I’ve been an NFL fan for nearly 50 years, and it was a fair time. Good bye, NFL. I’ll miss who you were, and what you meant to me and my family.