NFL Hall of Famer and former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka dismissed athletes' protests during the national anthem by claiming, "I don't see all the social injustice that some of these people see," during a cringe-worthy interview with Westwood One's Jim Gray on Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
"There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of," Ditka, 77, went on. "Now maybe I'm not watching it as carefully as other people."
Controversy has surrounded players' decisions to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality since the NFL season began, drawing in even President Trump. Ditka, though, seemed particularly unsympathetic, apparently writing off the entire civil rights movement in his comments Monday.
"I don't know what social injustices [there] have been," Ditka said. "Muhammad Ali rose to the top. Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. Is everything based on color? I don't see it that way."
He added that if he was still a coach today, he would bench players who knelt during the anthem. "You have an obligation to the game … 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."
But "if you don't respect our country, then you shouldn't be in this country playing football," Ditka concluded. "Go to another country and play football." Listen to the interview below. Jeva Lange