The president has poured gasoline onto the raging controversy over whether or not it is proper for NFL players to take a knee during the pre-game national anthem as a show of support for the rights of African Americans, and the latest interest to chime in on the issue is former NFL coach Mike Ditka.
To put it lightly, what Ditka had to say was misinformed at best, and willfully hurtful at worst.
While speaking with Jim Gray in a radio interview ahead of the recent Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings game, Ditka commented that he doesn’t feel as though there is any need for the anthem demonstrations. He said, “There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of.”
Quipping that “the opportunity is there for everybody,” Ditka jumped off his completely false premise to assert that the demonstrations amount to nothing more than disrespect for our nation’s military and for the game of football itself.
He told Gray:
‘I don’t see a lot of respect for the game, I just see respect for their own individual opinions… Respect the game, play the game, when you want to protest, protest when the game’s over, protest whatever other way you want to.’
Is this not the United States where respect for individual opinions is supposed to be built into the very fabric of society? What does Ditka think this is, the United States of Football?
He went on to explain, as mentioned, that he finds the protests to be disrespectful to the institution of the United States itself, although the point of this country is supposed to be to serve as a platform for the everyday individual to find their voice, not to produce millions of mindless robot-patriots.
‘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. 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. If you can’t respect the flag and this country, then you don’t respect what this is all about, so I would say: Adios.’
It’s an ironic and yet somewhat unsurprising lapse in logic for Ditka to claim that NFL players who take a knee during the anthem are un-American while himself being “un-American” in his demand of respect for a piece of cloth above human lives.
It goes without saying that Ditka’s suggestion that there has been no oppression in the last 100 years is ludicrous; there has been oppression of African Americans in just the last 100 days.
Throughout recent months, as people have begun to pay closer attention to what’s going on, a number of incidents have come to light in which African Americans have been targeted — and, in many cases, killed — for no apparent reason other than suspicion because of their appearance.
That is a big problem, and just because Ditka wants to play pretend that everything is all fine and dandy doesn’t mean that it really is.
Featured image via Christian Petersen/ Getty Images.