Chicago Bears legend Mike Ditka scolded protesting NFL players Wednesday and gave them a succinct message.
“Just play football,” said Ditka, who as a coach and player personified the toughness that generations of NFL fans associate with the Bears.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Ditka made it clear protesting players had gone too far.
“… I don’t believe you demonstrate against the American flag. I believe in the American flag. Or demonstrate against the Constitution. I believe in the Constitution,” he said. “I’m old-fashioned. There are other ways to get your point across. But I don’t believe one should demonstrate against our country.”
“And that’s the way I feel,” he told his interviewer. “And now I’d like to go back to my card game.”
Ditka has expressed anger at the protests since they first began and said players who think this makes them special will learn they are not.
Ditka said those who seek attention will fall short.
“Let them be malcontents. Let them do their thing,” he said in early September. “They’ll move on, nobody will think about it, nobody will remember who they were, the fact they didn’t stand for the national anthem.”
Ditka said political antics have no place on an NFL field.
“There’s a time and place for everything. Before a football game is not the time and place for it,” he said. “Period.”
Ditka has said he would exercise his freedom if, as a coach, a player had exercised his right to protest.
“Oh sure they could do anything they wanted to but they’d never play another down for me,” Ditka said. “Listen, if you don’t like this country, leave it. Really, if you don’t respect it, if you don’t understand it, leave it.”
Ditka said NFL players are asked to do very little.
“Where else are you going to get a job that pays the kind of money that these guys are making? Playing pro football, playing a kids’ game, and they don’t want to abide by a couple things that honor their own country. I think you know, if you want to be politically correct and coddle to these fools then you go ahead and do it,” he said. “I don’t do that. I’m sorry.”
Ditka has had harsh words for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016 started the trend of refusing to stand for the anthem.
“I think it’s a problem when anybody who disrespects this country and the flag. If they don’t like the country, they don’t like our flag, get the h*** out! That’s what I think. So, if you’re asking me, I have no respect for Colin Kaepernick,” Ditka said. “He probably has no respect for me. That’s his choice.”
“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,” Ditka told a Dallas radio station.
Earlier this year, he said that what Kaepernick thinks or does is unimportant.
“When we live in a society that pays attention to athletes, say, as greatly as they do to Kaepernick, then we’re foolish. I mean, athletes’ opinions are no different than anybody else’s, they’re no more significant than anybody else’s. They’re no more important than anybody else’s. Kaepernick would be an unknown, a complete unknown — nobody would know who he was — without the game of football, without the sport he’s playing,” Ditka said.
“And not to respect that, you’ve got be a pretty unintelligent person, I would think.”
“I think it’s important to me that some of these young people playing the game start giving something back to the game,” he concluded. “And respect the game the way it should be respected instead of acting like a bunch of fools out there.”
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Source: Western Journalism