Chicago Bears legend Mike Ditka has made his feelings on the national anthem protest debate crystal clear: Players who take a knee "can get the hell out of the country."
The video: Ditka made the remarks over the weekend to a TMZ Sports interviewer who raised the question of whether there would be anthem protests in his new "X League," a women's football league of which he is owner and chairman.
- "If you can't respect our National Anthem, get the hell out of the country. That's the way I feel," he said.
- "Of course, I am old-fashioned, so I am only going to say what I feel. I think that there is a way that you protest and there is way that you don't protest."
- "You don't protest against the flag. You don't protest against this country who has given you the opportunity to make a living playing a sport that you never thought would happen, so I don't want to hear all the crap," he added.
The reaction: Many liberals decried Ditka's comments on social media.
Sports agent David Mulugheta, tweeted that Ditka "traded his helmet in for a white hood as soon as he retired from football."
But conservatives rallied behind the former Bears coach turned popular ESPN commentator.
Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, tweeted, "AMEN!"
https://t.co/uLSMZmkcp7— Mo Brooks (@RepMoBrooks) July 26, 2020
Former Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka: “If you can't respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country. You don't protest against the flag and you don't protest against this country who's given you the opportunities to make a living.”
Kneeling during the national anthem, a controversial protest against police brutality and racism popularized by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016, has gone mainstream amid a national racial justice movement.
- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently reversed the league's ban on taking a knee during the anthem, and encouraged teams to hire Kaepernick.
- But President Donald Trump, speaking for many conservatives, has continued to oppose the protest as "disrespecting our Country & Flag."