10 months ago
In a national radio interview Monday night, former NFL tight end, coach and ESPN analyst Mike Ditka reportedly told Jim Gray on Westwood One’s pregame show that professional football players shouldn’t kneel to protest racism and police brutality because “there has been no oppression in the last 100 years” — and that a football field isn’t the place for a protest, anyway.
“If 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,” Ditka said. “Respect the game, play the game, when you want to protest, protest when the game’s over, protest whatever other way you want to.”
Ditka, who is a fervent supporter of President Trump, went on to vocalize his support for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who told players they’d be benched if they kneeled or sat for the anthem.
“I don’t care who you are, or how much money you make. If you don’t respect our country, you shouldn’t be in this country playing football,” Ditka said. “Go to another country and play football. If you had to go to somewhere else and try to play this sport, you wouldn’t have a job.”
When questioned by Gray about social injustice and some of the hurdles overcome by greats like Muhammad Ali and Jesse Owens, Ditka argued that he “didn’t know what social injustice” had been.
“Muhammad Ali rose to the top. Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. I mean, you can say, are you talking that everything is based on color? I don’t see it that way,” Ditka 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.”
Following the interview, the Chicago Tribune pointed out instances of social injustices throughout the last century, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to just name two. The outlet also pointed out that Ditka’s teammates on the Bears faced “discrimination and bigotry” in the mid-1960s so significant that the story was turned into the 1971 TV movie Brian’s Song.