Mike Ditka on NFL protests: ‘No oppression in the last 100 years that I know of’
Ditka’s comments on racial discrimination and oppression in his country draw fierce criticism
Ditka voiced those thoughts out loud to Jim Gray on Westwood One prior to the Bears-Vikings game on Monday night and he made it very clear that he wasn’t a fan of the protests, which were started by Colin Kaepernick last season to bring attention to racial injustice and police brutality in America.
“Is this the stage for this?” he said, via the Washington Post. “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 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.”
“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,” he said. “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.”
The protests sweeping the NFL have been met with polarizing reactions, so those comments from Ditka had a similar fate. They were praised by those who don’t believe in the protests or what they stand for, and also by those who want politics out of sports altogether. They were criticized by many who believe in the cause and the message of the protests.
But there’s one particular quote from Ditka that stood out above the rest on Monday night … and certainly not for a good reason.
“There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of,” Ditka told Gray.
Saying that “you have to be colorblind in this country,” Ditka noted that “the opportunity is there for everybody.”
In a time where scalding hot takes are somewhat of a norm in sports media, that quote right there is a five-alarm blaze.
Not to turn this into a math lesson, but 2017 minus 100 is 1917. To say there has been no oppression in America since 1917 is, well, astoundingly idiotic, to be completely honest. Even if you want to argue that the key part of Ditka’s quote is the “that I know of” portion — as that suggests that maybe Ditka was talking about his own personal experiences with oppression — it’s still a terribly dumb thing to say.
Not experiencing something firsthand isn’t an excuse to pretend or claim it doesn’t exist, and Ditka simply has no excuse here. He’s 77 years old, meaning he was literally a young adult or full adult through much of the Civil Rights movement. He was 16 when Rosa Parks was arrested. He was 24 when the Civil Rights Act passed. He was 25 when the Voting Rights Act passed. He was 29 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
He’s been an adult in America for a long time and he’s also been surrounded by people of color in America for a long time. He should certainly know better. Hell, if Ditka was born even five years ago he’d have quite a difficult time arguing that there’s been no oppression during his lifetime.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that he’s already received quite a lot of heat for those comments.
Ditka can have whatever opinion he wants about the protests in the NFL because it will remain just that — an opinion. But to say that there’s been no oppression in America over the last 100 years is factually incorrect (and outrageously so) and, therefore, pretty indefensible.