"Is this the stage for this?" he said.
While Namath conceded NFL owners are allowed to prohibit protests in the "workplace", he did not condone Ditka's plea that players leave the country if they don't respect this one and the opportunity they have to play football. "If you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort in, I think you can accomplish anything, and we have watched that throughout our history of our country".
"I don't care who you are, how much money you make". I just see respect for their own individual opinions. The idea that they should be able to protest but not during business hours and surely not during a game and not in uniform and actually not at the stadium.
"I think it's a problem, anybody who disrespects this country and the flag", Ditka said then in a radio interview on KRLD-FM in Dallas.
"How many countries pay u millions to play a kids game??" tweeted one critic. If you had to go somewhere else to try to play the sport, you wouldn't have a job. My choice is that I like this country, I respect our flag, and I don't see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on.
In a time where scalding hot takes are somewhat of a norm in sports media, that quote right there is a five-alarm blaze.
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Namath made the point most have forgotten in light of President Donald Trump's attack on players' protests, that the movement began past year with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem to raise awareness of racial inequality and prejudice in this country.
Not experiencing something firsthand isn't an excuse to pretend or claim it doesn't exist, and Ditka simply has no excuse here. He was 24 when the Civil Rights Act passed. He was 29 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. He should certainly know better.
Hall of Fame coach Mike Ditka said on Monday that he doesn't believe there has been oppression in the United States "in the last 100 years".
With that in mind, it's not surprising that he's already received quite a lot of heat for those comments.