Mike Ditka rips NFL protests: ‘There has been no oppression in the last 100 years’

first_img Donald Trump targets Jemele Hill following ESPN anchor’s suspension Hall of Fame coach Mike Ditka said on Monday that he doesn’t believe there has been oppression in the United States “in the last 100 years”.The 77-year-old Ditka made the remarks during an interview on Westwood One’s Monday Night Football pregame show when asked about the ongoing wave of NFL players opting to sit or kneel during the national anthem as a way to protest social injustice in America. Read more Steve Smith Sr (@89SteveSmith)But to say this gives us a peek into you’re heart. Jim crow laws, brown v. Board of education Great coach…….. Clueless person https://t.co/liHBMqS9sFOctober 10, 2017 Steve Smith Sr (@89SteveSmith)Really? Civil rights act of 1964, voting act of 1965, Rosa parks 1955, #mikeditka go sit ur dumb a$$ down somewhere. I respect my elders https://t.co/liHBMqS9sFOctober 10, 2017 Reuse this content Colin Kaepernick … we have a small favour to ask. 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We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share on Twitter Support The Guardian On Wednesday, Ditka attempted to back away from his earlier comments. “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. “I have absolutely seen oppression in society in the last 100 years and I am completely intolerant of any discrimination. 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.”It’s not the first time Ditka has spoken on player protests. The longtime NFL coach said last year he had “no respect” for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, then with the San Francisco 49ers, shortly after he first kneeled during the anthem, sparking a national discussion and inspiring dozens of NFL players to follow suit.“I think it’s a problem, anybody who disrespects this country and the flag,” Ditka said then in a radio interview on KRLD-FM in Dallas. “If they don’t like the country, if they don’t like our flag, get the hell out. That’s what I think.“I have no respect for Colin Kaepernick. He probably has no respect for me, that’s his choice. My choice is that 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. Now if you don’t work, that’s a different problem.”Ditka, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988, is one of two people in NFL history to win a league title as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach. He graduated from local hero to Chicago icon during an 11-year coaching stint with the Bears that included the team’s only Super Bowl win during the 1985 season, then retired permanently after a failed comeback with the New Orleans Saints in 1999.The outspoken conservative publicly flirted with running against Democratic candidate Barack Obama, who was then a state senator, for the open seat in the US Senate vacated by Illinois senator Peter Fitzgerald in 2004 – an election that jump-started Obama’s ascent to the presidency in four years’ time.“Biggest mistake I’ve ever made,” he told the Dickinson Press in 2013. “Not that I would have won, but I probably would have and he wouldn’t be in the White House.”Last year, Ditka called Obama “the worst president we’ve ever had”. Chicago Bears Share via Email “All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression,” Ditka 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. … 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.”Steve Smith, a five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who played 16 seasons with the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens before retiring in January, was among those who took objection with Ditka’s remarks. 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