David Mulugheta, president of Athletes First, says famed NFL coach Mike Ditka is racist for his remarks about respecting the American national anthem.
In a recent interview, Ditka told TMZ Sports that he believes there are only two options when it comes to kneeling protests: respect the national anthem or leave the country.
What are the details?
In a Sunday tweet, the Athletes First president wrote, "This doesn't surprise me at all. Mike Ditka tradded his helmet in for a white hood as soon as he retired from football. Racism hiding behind faux patriotism is still racism."
This doesn’t surprise me at all. Mike Dikta traded his helmet in for a white hood as soon as he retired from footba… https://t.co/aLtF1iOUTv— David Mulugheta (@David Mulugheta)1595795917.0
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In the now-viral TMZ Sports interview, Ditka, 80, said, "If you can't respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country. That's the way I feel. Of course, I'm old-fashioned. So, I'm only going to say what I feel. I think there's a way you protest, and there's a way you don't protest."
He added, "You don't protest against the flag, and you don't protest against this country who's given you the opportunities to make a living playing a sport that you never thought would happen. So I don't want to hear all the crap."
'He's a racist'
Later on Sunday, Mulugheta responded to a Twitter user who insisted that respecting the national anthem is not racist.
"I totally agree...and the sun is hot," he wrote. "Neither have anything to do with people kneeling during the anthem."
I totally agree...and the sun is hot. Neither have anything to do with people kneeling during the anthem. https://t.co/dukRo0TnPm— David Mulugheta (@David Mulugheta)1595806648.0
By Monday, he was on a "Ditka is racist" roll and doubled down on his initial remarks condemning the famed and well-loved NFL coach.
In the tweet, Mulugheta offered "evidence" of Ditka's racism, but refused to provide context to the evidence he set forth to bolster his incendiary remarks.
"Dikta isn't a racist simply because he believes people should stand for the anthem, it's because of his many racist beliefs," he explained in a follow-up tweet. "One example, he claims 'there has been no oppression in the last 100 years.' To be clear, segregation ended less than 55 years ago. So yea he's a racist."
Dikta isn’t a racist simply because he believes people should stand for the anthem, it’s because of his many racist… https://t.co/OjFOLaECUl— David Mulugheta (@David Mulugheta)1595855542.0
'I have absolutely seen oppression in society'
In 2017, Ditka addressed the kneeling protests and said, "All of a sudden, it's become a big deal now, about oppression. There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of. Now maybe I'm not watching it as carefully as other people. I think the opportunity is there for everybody. ... If you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort into yourself, I think you can accomplish anything."
He added, "Is that the stage for this? If you want to protest, or whatever you want to protest, you've got a right to do that, but I think you're a professional athlete, you have an obligation to the game. I think you have to respect the game. That's what I think is the most important thing. I don't see a lot of respect for the game. I just see respect for their own individual opinions. Opinions are like noses, we all have one. Some are good. Some are bad."
He, however, retooled his remarks and issued a heartfelt apology almost immediately following the criticism he received.
"The characterization of the statement that I made does not reflect the context of the question that I was answering and certainly does not reflect my views throughout my lifetime," Ditka said in a statement at the time. "I have absolutely seen oppression in society in the last 100 years and I am completely intolerant of any discrimination."
Ditka added, "The interview was about the NFL and the related issues. That's where my head was at. I was quoted in the interview stating, 'You have to be colorblind.' I stated that you should look at a person for what they are and not the color of their skin. I'm sorry if anyone was offended."