Legendary NFL coach Mike Ditka ruffled a few feathers in an interview with TMZ last week when he offered a simple solution for athletes who have decided to use our country’s national anthem as a pulpit for their leftist politics.
“If they don’t like the country, they don’t like our flag … get the hell out,” the former Chicago Bears coach said of the return of anthem protests in professional sports.
Some argued that the 80-year-old simply doesn’t get it, or that he has oversimplified a complex issue.
Of course, Ditka’s comments also quickly saw him decried as a racist by some on social media.
This doesn’t surprise me at all. Mike Dikta traded his helmet in for a white hood as soon as he retired from football. Racism hiding behind faux patriotism is still racism. 🤷🏾♂️ https://t.co/0wRTpyfMhB
— David Mulugheta (@DavidMulugheta) July 26, 2020
If you were to ask many fans of professional sports, though, the coach hit the nail on the head.
Discussions about a perception that America’s institutions are biased against minorities are free to be had.
But those conversations shouldn’t be held on the field, the court, the diamond or anywhere else where Americans used to be able to go to forget about life for a few hours and just enjoy watching a game.
Ditka, who coached one the greatest football teams to ever play in the NFL, the 1985 Bears, still keeps up with the game he loves.
But, like so many sports fans, he has little tolerance for the disrespect being shown to the country’s flag and anthem.
Ditka joined Fox News host Jesse Watters over the weekend to discuss the sudden collision of sports and culture.
He offered no apology for his previous remarks and instead doubled down, explaining how he would handle such blatant disrespect for the flag that so many Americans have died for.
Asked how he would have reacted if one of his players had knelt during the playing of the national anthem, Ditka was straightforward.
“They wouldn’t have played for us,” the coach said. “It’s that simple.”
“So you’d bench them?” Watters asked.
“I would bench them,” the coach answered.
“That’s it,” Ditka continued. “Until they found that it was honorable to respect the country.
“This country has given them the opportunity to become millionaires. You understand what I’m saying?
“You can’t play American football in Peru. You can’t play it in England. American football can only be played in America.”
“And they make a lot of money doing it. Enjoy it, respect it, but don’t act like a clown.”
Ditka, like so many older, affable Americans who have paid their dues and tried to lead lives of greatness, has been around long enough to see the civil rights movement make great strides.
But the country, generally speaking, has gone backward with regard to racial unity, as the current neo-Marxist movement seeking to drive a wedge between Americans has been successful to a degree.
Ditka, whose life is intertwined with sports, doesn’t know what to make of it.
“I played football my whole life and we had more black football players on our team than we did white, but there was never a problem,” he told Fox News.
“We played football. It wasn’t about the color of a guy’s skin, it was about the way he played the game and what his contributions could be to society and to the school.”
Ditka’s continued comments against anthem kneeling will be most assuredly be construed to portray him as out of touch, bigoted or, at a minimum, behind the times.
As professional sports leagues continue to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement, players have become little more than empty political platforms.
They refuse to stand and honor the collective memory of those we’ve lost in places such as Valley Forge, Antietam, Saint-Mihiel, Okinawa, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Fallujah and Kamdesh.
Racial inequality, whether actual or perceived, is a complex issue.
But it’s a conversation that isn’t going to be resolved in the field of play.
Ditka, as always, offers blunt explanations that are not crafted to preserve feelings.
Sometimes, the most sensible answer to a complex issue is the one that is the most difficult to hear.
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