Asking long-retired coach Mike Ditka to rant about the latest hot topic in the NFL has become a strange cottage industry in the media, and sometimes even Ditka goes too far with his ranting.
Ditka, a 77-year-old who hasn’t held a job for an NFL team this century, said during a radio interview with reporter Jim Gray before “Monday Night Football” that he didn’t know of any racial oppression over the last 100 years, which is clearly ridiculous. It predictably upset a lot of people.
Ditka realized he had said something unfortunate and apologized for it.
“I want to clarify statements that I made in an interview with Jim Gray last night,” Ditka said in a statement, via WGN. “The characterization of the statement that I made does not reflect the context of the question that I was answering and certainly does not reflect my views throughout my lifetime. I have absolutely seen oppression in society in the last 100 years and I am completely intolerant of any discrimination. The interview was about the NFL and the related issues. That’s where my head was at. I was quoted in the interview stating, ‘You have to be color blind.’ I stated that you should look at a person for what they are and not the color of their skin. I’m sorry if anyone was offended.”
On the interview in question Ditka went to the tried-and-true bad argument that if you dare speak up about any bad conditions in the United States that means you should leave the country.
“If you don’t respect our country, then you shouldn’t be in this country playing football,” Ditka said to Gray on Monday. “Go to another country and play football.”
Sure. Had Ditka stopped there it wouldn’t have created much of an issue, because many people have offered that nonsense during the anthem debate. But then he went a step further and denied there are any social injustices. Here’s Ditka’s quote, emphasis added, from the Sporting News:
“I don’t know what social injustices [there] have been … You have 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,” Ditka said. “But, all of a sudden, it has 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 in, you can accomplish anything. And we have watched that throughout our history of our country.”
Now that Ditka has clarified his comments, this specific controversy should die down again. And then the next time there’s a hot-button issue with the NFL, someone else will ask Ditka about it hoping for another rant.
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