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Mike Ditka to kneeling athletes: ‘Get the hell out of the country’

The former Bears coach misunderstands purpose of protests.

Retired Bears coach Mike Ditka had some choice words for current professional athletes.
Retired Bears coach Mike Ditka had some choice words for current professional athletes.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Hall of Fame Bears coach and former NFL broadcaster Mike Ditka spent much of the 2016 season voicing his opposition to Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice and police brutality.

Speaking in an interview with TMZ Sports about his women’s football X League, Ditka was asked about the resurgence of peaceful protests from athletes during the national anthem — MLB, the WNBA, NWSL, and MLS have all had players protesting during the anthem since restarting.

“If you can’t respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country. That’s the way I feel. Of course, I’m old fashioned. So, I’m only going to say what I feel. … You don’t protest against the flag, and you don’t protest against this country who’s given you the opportunities to make a living playing a sport that you never thought would happen. So, I don’t want to hear all the crap.”

Player agent David Mulugheta fired back at Ditka’s comments on Twitter.

“This doesn’t surprise me at all. Mike Ditka traded his helmet in for a white hood as soon as he retired from football. Racism hiding behind faux patriotism is still racism,” he tweeted in response to a separate tweet from former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy.

Mulugheta represents Aaron Rodgers, Derwin James, and Earl Thomas among others.

Of course, as it has been pointed out repeatedly, the athletes are not protesting against the flag or the anthem.

They are using their platform to peacefully bring attention to police brutality and racial injustice.