Mike Ditka spent five-plus decades around pro football. He’s a Hall of Famer and a Super Bowl champion. But when it comes to NFL players protesting police brutality and racial injustice during the national anthem, Ditka sounds like a broken record … in the stubbornly uninformed variety.
Back when Colin Kaepernick started his protest by kneeling during the anthem in 2016, Ditka said that Kaepernick should “get the hell out” of the country because Ditka incorrectly saw the protests as disrespecting the flag.
Fast forward four years as the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked global protests against police brutality, and Ditka still hasn’t even tried to listen to the message of the protests.
He said in July that protesting athletes should “get the hell out” of the country. And after Week 1’s NFL games saw protests across the league, Ditka echoed the same ignorant catchphrase in an interview with Newsmax on Monday.
Ditka said, basically admitting his ignorance on the subject:
“Football’s football. It’s not a complicated thing. You’re playing the game, you’re enjoying the game. You don’t like the game, get out of it. It’s not for protesting one way or the other. What color you are, what you think, this or that. You play football. That’s it. You’re privileged. You got a gift from God that you can play the game because you got a body you can do it with. I don’t really understand what you’re protesting. I played the game. I coached the game for a long time. It makes no sense to me.”
“I would tell those players go to another country and play football there. You don’t have to come out. You don’t have to come out if you go to another country. You can’t! Because the game’s only played in this country. And if you can’t respect this country, get the hell out of it.”
Though Ditka only sees football players as soulless bodies meant for his entertainment, that’s not the reality of today’s NFL. The players have a platform to peacefully voice their opinions on an important cause, and there’s nothing wrong with them doing so. The protests have never been about the flag or disrespecting the country — they’ve been about pushing for a better future for this country.
But at this point, Ditka would rather be the old man yelling at a cloud.