Chicago Bears legend and NFL Hall of Famer ‘Iron’ Mike Ditka made a career of tough, physical play on the field, and the free expression of his opinions off the field, some of which have, over the years, ruffled more than a few feathers.
In an interview with TMZ Sports, Ditka said that he opposed players kneeling for the national anthem. As the new Chairman of the X League, a women’s tackle football organization, Ditka said he wouldn’t want players in the league protesting in that fashion.
“If you can’t respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country,” Ditka said in the interview. “That’s the way I feel. Of course, I’m old fashioned, so I’m only going to say what I feel.”
Ditka’s comments came after quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, an NFL team once coached by Ditka, initially said he would never agree with anyone disrespecting the flag. After a tidal wave of backlash from fans and players across the league, Brees changed his stance on the topic.
Other athletes in the NFL, the NBA and other sports have voiced their opinions on the subject in light of recent events, sparked in large part by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis earlier this year.
Despite the uproar, Ditka stands by his sentiments about this issue.
“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,” Ditka told TMZ. “So, I don’t want to hear all the crap.”