Legendary NFL coach Mike Ditka is walking back claims he made Monday that “there has been no oppression in the last hundred years.”
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The comment, made to Westwood One's Jim Gray before a "Monday Night Football" game, came as team owners grapple with President Trump’s calls to discipline players that protest during the national anthem. Ditka said he wouldn’t tolerate kneeling on his sideline.
“All of a sudden, it has become a big deal now, about oppression … there has been no oppression in the last hundred years that I know of,” he said.
Historical counterexamples quickly flooded social media: Jim Crow laws, sanctioned lynchings, denying women the right to vote, Japanese internment, among others.
In a statement Tuesday, Ditka said “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 former Chicago Bears coach went on to apologize “if anyone was offended,” saying the interview was specifically about the NFL, and “that’s where my head was at.”
The question Ditka answered was specifically about athletes commenting on larger social issues, from Muhammad Ali to Jesse Owens. Ditka did not mention the NFL in his answer: “If you want to work, if you want to try, you can accomplish anything.”
Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath was one of many to admonish Ditka for the remarks, telling Fox News, “Look up the definition of oppression and you will understand that it obviously has taken place.”