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Mike Ditka Hasn't Noticed Any Oppression In The Last 100 Years

By Stephen Gossett in News on Oct 10, 2017 2:49PM

Former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka walks the sidelines during the game between the Chicago Bears and the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field on September 10, 2017 (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images)

Defiantly surly former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka has proven not to be the most nuanced thinker in the debate over take-a-knee protests in the NFL and racial injustice. You might recall the time last year he said that Colin Kaepernick should "get the hell out" of the country if he doesn't like it here. Ditka stepped in it again on Monday when he said the last century has been oppression-free, as far as he's aware, at least.

"There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of," Ditka said. "Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people," he added, a qualifier that one feels safe in describing as an understatement.

Ditka made his comments on a Westwood One pregame show before the Bears and Minnesota Vikings matchup on Monday Night Football. Host Jim Gray asked Ditka, who has long been a critic of the athletes kneeling during the national anthem, what his response would be to those who want social justice. Gray invoked Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens, John Carlos and Tommy Smith in his question.

Ditka replied, according to the Washington Post:

“I don’t know what social injustices have been. Muhammad Ali rose to the top. Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. I mean, you can say, are you talking that everything is based on color? I don’t see it that way.

I think that you have to be colorblind 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.

But all of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression. 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 think the opportunity is there for everybody. Race, religion, creed, color, nationality — if you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort into yourself, I think you can accomplish anything."

No surprise, Ditka's comments were greeted with plenty of backlash, with people pointing out that Ditka had lived through the tail end of the Jim Crow era, the Civil Rights struggle and played in Chicago while Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated against housing discrimination in the city—not to mention any manner of less highly publicized incidents.

And as Bomani Jones of ESPN rightly noted, kudos to Gray for putting the question to Ditka live on air.

Ditka, when asked late last month about the protests by the Sun-Times, “Whoever you think is right, is right. But I don’t believe you demonstrate against the American flag. I believe in the American flag." He added that he was "old fashioned" and closed by saying, “And that’s the way I feel. And now I’d like to go back to my card game."