CHICAGO — Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka weighed in on the debate over the national anthem.
Ditka joined Jim Gray for an interview on the Westwood One Monday Night Football pregame show before the Bears game.
“Da Coach,” who is known for his bluntness, jumped right into the kneeling debate, saying there’s been no racial oppression in the last 100 years.
“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,” Ditka said during the interview.
He went on by saying, “I think the opportunity is there for everybody. Race, religion, creed, color, nationality. If you want to work, if you want to try, you want to put effort — I think you can accomplish anything.”
Ditka also said he would bench players who kneeled if he was still coaching.
“I don’t care who you are, how much money you make — if you don’t respect our country, then you shouldn’t be in this country playing football. Go to another country and play football,” Ditka said.
“If you can’t respect the flag and the country, then you don’t respect what this is all about. So I would say, ‘adios,'” he said.
The former coach talked about the topic for most of the six-minute interview.
One Chicago resident said he believes Ditka’s views are generational.
“It’s just kind of how they were raised, [but it’s] not a really good excuse,” they said.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell just wrote to letter to all 32 teams, saying he wants players to stand during the anthem but that he cares about the players and their concerns and wants to have honest conversations that lead to progress.
Goodell said he wanted to end the controversy by agreeing on a uniform approach after conversations with many of the teams and its players.