The very first NFL championship game I ever watched was Super Bowl XX. Maybe you remember it, because it was a true spectacle. It was the 1985 Chicago Bears, and they were coming off just the second NFL season in history for any team in which they won 15 games in the regular season. The team was chock-full of players who seemed so much larger than life, they were like professional wrestlers or something. In fact, number 72, William “The Refrigerator” Perry briefly was a wrestler the following year.
Maybe it was the strength of that legendary year that makes Mike Ditka, the coach of the ’85 Bears, think his opinion on current events means anything. Maybe he’s still riding high, all these 32 years later, on the fact that occasionally someone still sticks a mic in his face and asks him to say something about the sport.
If only he’d stick to what they ask.
In a pre-game segment that the Chicago Sun-Times said “quickly skidded off the rails,” Ditka took up nearly all of the six minutes that host Jim Gray was allotted before the big Bears-Vikings Monday Night Football game talking about kneeling players in the NFL.
[Y]ou have a right to do that. But I think you are a professional athlete. You have an obligation to the game. I think you have to respect the game. That’s the most important thing.”
Inexplicably, Gray continued to ask Coach Ditka about the issue, wondering whether or not Mike would bench players who kneeled during the anthem:
Yes, I don’t care who you are, how much money you make. If you don’t respect our country, then you shouldn’t be in this country playing football. Go to another country and play football … If you don’t respect this flag and this country, then you don’t know what this is all about. I would say, adios.”
And then this old white asshat dropped the bomb that literally everyone — immediately — disagreed with:
[A]ll 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.”
Really, Mike? None???
I mean, when Mike Ditka was a player for the same team he’d eventually end up coaching, he was literally playing in the middle of the struggle to pass the Civil Rights Act. It’s not like he wasn’t seeing the news. It’s not like there were no black players. Ditka himself shared an O-line with Willie “The Wisp” Galimore, whose number, 28, has been retired by the Bears. I wonder if Mike noticed when Willie became the first black man to register as a guest at the Ponce de Leon Motor Lodge in his hometown of St. Augustine, Florida. I wonder if Mike followed The Wisp’s story after he was killed in a car accident, and his son Ron went on to be the very first black American Olympic gymnast.
So truly and sincerely, from the bottom of my heart: Fuck you, Mike Ditka. Pretending oppression didn’t — or doesn’t — exist in America is something you should probably leave at home before you come to the game.
Featured image via Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images