If Mike Ditka were still at the helm of an NFL team, he'd perhaps do more than bench athletes who disrespect the US flag during the national anthem, as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has threatened to do. "I would say 'adios,'" the former coach and ESPN analyst said Monday in a radio interview with Westwood One Sports. "If you don't respect our country, you shouldn't be in this country playing football. Go to another country." Though he initially touted one's right to protest, Ditka said athletes should "respect the game" and "protest whatever other way you want to" off the field. But Ditka, an early supporter of Donald Trump, also stressed that the place to protest is at "a ballot box" and people should "respect" election outcomes, per the Washington Post.
"I don't see a lot of respect for the game, I just see respect for their own individual opinions," Ditka added of protesting athletes, whom he suggested had no reason to be upset. "There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of," he said. "I think the opportunity is there for everybody." Mediate notes the 77-year-old must've forgotten about segregation and "the systemic lynching of black individuals in the Jim Crow era of the South," while Dave Zirin at the Nation says Ditka's suggestion that protesters "go to another country" is itself racist. Citing Ditka's treatment of black players, Zirin adds Ditka's critique simply "feels like another chapter in a life of degrading black people who do more than just say, 'Yes, Coach.'" (Read more NFL stories.)