NFL legend Mike Ditka on anthem protesters: ‘No oppression in the last hundred years that I know of’

NFL legend Mike Ditka on anthem protesters: ‘No oppression in the last hundred years that I know of’
NFL legend Mike Ditka has come under fire for saying there hasn't been oppression of black Americans in the last 100 years that he knows of. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

NFL legend Mike Ditka has come under fire for saying there hasn’t been oppression of black Americans in the last 100 years that he knows of.

When did he make the comment?

  • Ditka was speaking on Westwood One’s Monday Night Football pregame radio show with host Jim Gray before the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears, a team Ditka coached to a Super Bowl championship in the 1980s, Yahoo Sports reported.

What did Ditka say when asked if he’d bench players who refused to stand during the national anthem?

  • Ditka told Gray that he would bench them.
  • “Yes, I don’t care who you are, how much money you make,” Ditka said. “If you don’t respect our country, then you shouldn’t be in this country playing football. Go to another country and play football. If you had to go somewhere else and try to play the sport, you wouldn’t have a job. … If you can’t respect this flag and the country, then you don’t know what this is all about. So, I would say, ‘Adios.’”

How did Ditka respond when asked about legendary black athletes and past social injustices in America?

  • Ditka first said, “I don’t know what social injustices [there] have been.”
  • He continued: “Muhammad Ali rose to the top. Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. … Are you talking everything is based on color? … I don’t see it that way. I think that you have to be color-blind in this country. You gotta look at a person for what he is and what he stands for and how he produces — not by the color of his skin. That has never had anything to do with anything.”
  • Then came his words that people have been criticizing: “But, all of a sudden, it has become a big deal now — about oppression. There has been no oppression in the last hundred years that I know of. Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people.”
  • Ditka finished his take with the following: “I think the opportunity is there for everybody — race, religion, creed, color, nationality. If you wanna work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort in … I think you can accomplish anything. And we have watched that throughout our history of our country. People rise to the top, and they became very influential people in our country by doing the right things. I don’t think burning the flag, I don’t think protesting the country. It’s not about the country. Right now a lot of this is going on, they’re protesting maybe an individual — that’s wrong, too. You got a ballot box, you got an election. That’s where you protest. You elect the person you want to be in office. And if you don’t get that person in office, I think you respect the other one. That’s all. Period. … That’s only my opinion, now.”

Here’s the audio clip:

How are others reacting to Ditka’s statement?

They’re not too happy about it:

In February, Ditka blasted those demanding that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady denounce his friend, newly inaugurated President Donald Trump, calling detractors “a***oles.” In September, Ditka mocked players protesting during the national anthem, saying “nobody will remember who they were.”

This writer’s perspective

Ditka’s statement about “no oppression in the last hundred years that I know of” in regard to black Americans is obviously ignorant.

Basic knowledge concerning Jim Crow, segregation and the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s — not to mention athletic milestones that became cultural markers, such as Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color line — shouldn’t be off Ditka’s radar.

Ditka seemed to mitigate his statement a tad by saying right afterward that “maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people.” But again, knowing that black Americans have suffered oppression over the last century hasn’t exactly required careful observation.

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