Legendary Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka affirmed in a recent interview that he has not mellowed with age on the subject of kneeling in protest during the national anthem.
During a 2016 interview with KRLD-FM, Ditka summed up his position this way: “If they don’t like the country they don’t like our flag … get the hell out.”
Ditka was recently interviewed by TMZ on the subject of the X League — a professional football league for women of which he will be the chairman. During the interview, he was asked if he would support allowing players in the new league to kneel for the anthem.
Ditka, a former star tight end for the Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, showed that the attitude that gritted him into the Hall of Fame has not changed.
“If you can’t respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country,” Ditka said. “That’s the way I feel. Of course, I’m old fashioned, so I’m only going to say what I feel.”
“I think that there’s a way you protest and there’s a way you don’t protest,” he said.
“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,” Ditka said, making it clear that his personal feelings and league policy might eventually differ. “So, I don’t want to hear all the crap.”
Ditka’s 2016 interview pulled no punches on the subject of kneeling and kneelers, including the first kneeler of them all — former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“I have no respect for Colin Kaepernick – he probably has no respect for me, that’s his choice,” Ditka said. “My choice is, I like this country, I respect our flag, and I don’t see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on.
“I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunity – now if they don’t want to look for them – then you can find problems with anything. But this is the land of opportunity because you can be anything you want to be if you work. If you don’t work…that’s a different problem,” he said.
“Is that the stage for this? If you want to protest … you have a right to do that. But I think you are a professional athlete. You have an obligation to the game,” he said. “I think you have to respect the game. That’s the most important thing.
“I don’t see a lot of respect for the game. I see respect for their own, individual opinions. Opinions are like noses, we all have one. Some are good, some are bad. I’m not condemning anybody or criticizing anybody. Respect the game. Play the game. When you want to protest, protest when the game is over. Football has been so good to these guys. Enjoy it. Have fun with it.”
During his 2017 comments, Ditka also said “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 — race, religion, creed, color, nationality. If you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort in, you can accomplish anything. And we have watched that throughout our history of our country.” In his TMZ interview, he said the X League will feature “talented athletes.”
He noted that the quality of play remains to be seen.
“It might be great, it might not be, but it will be interesting,” he said, noting the success of women’s boxing.
Ditka said the women playing in the new league will “knock the crap out of each other” noting that is “what people want to see.”
The X League is scheduled to kick off in April with eight cities — Los Angeles, Austin, Denver, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Kansas City and Omaha.