Mike Ditka, the former Bears star and coach, spoke out against the NFL protests during the national anthem, claiming that there was nothing for the players to be protesting in the first place.
“All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression,” Ditka told Jim Gray on Westwood One’s pregame show. “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.”
It’s an almost unbelievable assertion, considering the fact that the Voting Rights Act wasn’t passed until 1964, not to mention Ditka’s own team and the discrimination the players face there was featured in the 1971 TV movie “Brian’s Song,” which followed James Caan as Brian Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams as Gale Sayers, the first interracial roommates on the team.
Gray tried to point out athletes such as Muhammad Ali and Jesse Owens, but Ditka wasn’t hearing it.
“I don’t know what social injustices have been,” Ditka said. “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.”
Toward the end of the segment, when Gray joked that Ditka was at a loss for words, he finished by saying that he remembered what America used to be.
“No, I’m not because I’m getting old, Jim, and I’m to the point right now, I’m fed up with a lot of it,” Ditka said. “I mean, I don’t see all this, the social injustice that some of these people see. I don’t. I know my dad worked in a steel mill and he brought home a paycheck and we ate dinner every night together. We didn’t have anything, but we didn’t need anything because we had a family. That was a good time in America. I would like to see us get back to that.”