Former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka had an unsurprising response to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his recent protesting of the national anthem over social injustice in America. Since the NFL preseason started in August, Kaepernick has been kneeling during the national anthem in protest of a continued string of killings of Black individuals by police officers across the country. But while criticism has mounted for Kaepernick, so has his support. Except from Ditka.

Mike Ditka is off ESPN’s NFL pre-game shows but will contribute to “SportsCenter.” (Jordan Strauss/Invision for NFL/AP Images)

“I think it’s a problem, anybody who disrespects this country and the flag,” Ditka said in an interview with a Dallas radio station KRLD-FM on Sept. 23. “If they don’t like the country, if they don’t like our flag, get the hell out.”

It didn’t stop there for the known conservative, though, as he continued to shove his foot in the mouth on live radio. “I have no respect for Colin Kaepernick, he probably has no respect for me,” Ditka boasted. “That’s his choice. My choice is that I like this country. I respect our flag. And I don’t see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on. I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunities.”

Ditka, who currently works as an ESPN analyst, just exposed his true feelings about the simmering headlines that’s been gripping the nation. His response smelled of bigotry, racism and arrogance, and it’s the same mindset that several police officers have been expressing time and time again as numerous Black citizens have been gunned down without reason. It could be justified if Ditka simply didn’t agree with Kaepernick’s actions, but to suggest that the quarterback “get the hell out” the country reflects the classic slave owner mentality.

It would be nice to think we stand united in America as we try to work through all the issues plaguing the country. Ditka’s attitude says otherwise, however. Sports can typically bring people together. But comments and attitudes like this is sure to cause even more division as the nation continues to boil under tumultuous circumstances. Ditka may have just thrown another stone in an ongoing race war.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO