Mike Ditka, an ESPN NFL Sunday Countdown analyst, former coach, and football star, was stripped of his role on the show days after he called Barack Obama the “worst president ever.” Not long ago, Ditka made the following remarks about Obama and the 2016 presidential election during an appearance on the Bernie and Sid Morning Show:
‘Obama is the worst president we’ve ever had. Barack Obama’s a fine man. I mean, he’s pleasant. He would be great to play golf with. He’s not a leader.’
‘This country needs leadership. It needs direction. It needs somebody that steps up front. We need somebody like Ronald Reagan.’
Ditka is, of course, entitled to his opinions about President Obama, even if, at least from what he says in the interview, they are vague and remarkably shallow opinions. It remains to be known what it is that makes Obama as bad as Ditka believes him to be, other than that he just isn’t a “leader.” It also remains to be known what a “leader” really is for Ditka, beyond platitudes about “stepping up front”, or telling men of privilege like him all the things that they want to hear, rather than challenging them by saying the things they need to hear in order to make them wiser, more empathetic, and responsible citizens.
When asked about who he would vote for though if the election were held tomorrow, Ditka’s answer was, unsurprisingly, “Donald Trump.” He explained his answer by stating, “The people that hate him, hate him, but people like him because he says things that resonate with what they think.” Ditka remains vague though on what it is that “the people” are thinking, because only a minority of Americans actually “think” the way Donald Trump does about Muslims and other immigrants. Does Ditka only consider this minority of those who support Trump’s ideas to be the “true” voice of America?
Perhaps all of this is expecting too much from Ditka here, given that the format of the radio show he appeared on had very little in the way of substance to begin with. The show is among some of the most immature right-leaning sports and politics programs on the airwaves.
Sid Rosenberg, one of the radio show’s co-hosts, has acquired a reputation for “controversy” in previous years. In the past, he has made such disgusting remarks as “faggots play tennis,” “female soccer players are a bunch of juiced-up dykes,” and that “Palestinians are stinking animals.” This reputation obviously speaks for itself. Clearly, figures like Trump appeal to Ditka, Rosenberg, and their listeners, because they like racist, homophobic, misogynistic blowhards like themselves. Who better to represent them in the White House than Donald Trump?
If Ditka’s remarks about Trump and Obama are the reason why he is suddenly leaving his position on Sunday Countdown, then in all honesty, it’s not really a very good reason. All it does is reinforce the “us and them” divisions that are plaguing the political fabric of this country; the kinds of divisions that men like Ditka and Rosenberg will continue to thrive on so long as we unintentionally reinforce them when pushing them to the sidelines (no pun intended).
If Ditka was removed from his position against his will, then ESPN should give it back to him. If they truly despise what he says, then it’s perfectly within their power to confront him about it publicly on-air. There are plenty of people in sports who could debate him, giving him another point of view he and his fans wouldn’t otherwise consider.
Frankly, this belief that “sports and politics” should never mix is wrong, and mainstream news sources would do well to stop reinforcing this idea. Relegating Ditka to less air time because of his political beliefs only ensures that they will continue to go unchallenged. Conversely, it only allows the same silence to apply to progressive athletes as well.