Former NFL coach Mike Ditka says racial oppression isn’t real

Former NFL tight end and head coach Mike Ditka said Monday said current football players should “respect the game” by saving protests for after the game rather than during the national anthem.

“All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression,” Ditka told Jim Gray on Westwood One’s pregame show ahead of the Bears’ “Monday Night Football” loss to the Vikings. “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 don’t know what social injustices have been,” said Ditka who played in the NFL from 1961-1972. “Muhammad Ali rose to the top. Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. I mean, you can say, ‘Are you (saying) everything is based on color?’ I don’t see it that way. I think that you have to be color blind in this country. You’ve got to look at a person for what he is and what he stands for and how he produces, not by the color of his skin. That has never had anything to do with anything.”

Ditka made the comments before the Monday Night Football contest between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears during an interview with Jim Gray of Westwood One (via Des Bieler of the Washington Post).

“Is this the stage for this?” he said referring to players who have taken the knee during the anthem. “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.

Chris Mortensen of ESPN noted Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said this week any players on his team who “disrespect” the national anthem and the American flag won’t be allowed to play in the game. Ditka told Gray he would put the same policy in place if he were still coaching in the NFL.

“Yes. 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.”