Before this week's edition of Monday Night Football, NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka weighed in on the NFL political controversy as only the outspoken retired NFL coach and tight end could.
Ditka, known for his outspoken conservative viewpoints on and off the gridiron, in the past has taken on Colin Kaepernick, telling the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and others who "disrespects this country and the flag" to "get the hell out," and calling President Obama the "worst" president ever.
Monday night, Westwood One's Jim Gray asked Ditka about players protesting before and during the national anthem and Vice President Mike Pence walking out of this weekend's 49ers-Indianapolis Colts game.
According to USA Today's For the Win, Ditka said that players had to "respect game, play the game," and that football has been so good to him and these players.
Gray then asked Ditka about the comparison between those protesting and the historic protests of Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens, John Carlos and Tommy Smith.
"I don't know what social injustices (there) have been. Muhammad Ali rose to the top, Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. Are you talking that everything is based on color? I don't see it that way. I think you have to be color blind in this country. You have to look at a person for what he is and what he stands for and how he produces, not by the color of his skin. That has never had anything to do with anything," Ditka said. "But all of a sudden, it has become a big deal now, about oppression. There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of. Now maybe I'm not watching it as carefully as other people. I think the opportunity is there for everybody -- race, religion, creed, color, nationality. 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."
Many commentators weighed in on Ditka's comments afterward, both on the sports programs, and off.
The social media space exploded with comments excoriating Ditka and his comments, as he apparently ignored everything from women finally earning the right to vote in 1920 to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s to fight segregation and discrimination, or the fight for same-sex marriage in 2015. And that does not even scratch the surface of the contemporary protests against gerrymandering, redlining, black codes and other types of discrimination -- spoken and unspoken -- that exist even today among minorities of different races, religions, and genders.