Mike Ditka calls kneeling during anthem 'disrespectful': 'Get the hell out of the country'

Mike Ditka, the legendary Pro Football Hall of Fame coach, reiterated his stance that athletes should not be kneeling during the national anthem. He called it a protest of the flag and the country, and would prefer it not happen in his new X League, a women’s tackle football league.

Ditka: ‘Get the hell out’ if you can’t show respect

Ditka, 80, was asked about kneeling during the national anthem, which is becoming more commonplace as sports return from their hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you can’t respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country,” Ditka said in a video interview with TMZ Sports. “That’s the way I feel. Of course, I’m old-fashioned. I’m only going to say what I feel.”

His comments are similar to the initial ones by New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who also implied that those who kneel in protest of police brutality are unpatriotic. He apologized two separate times after criticism.

Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the anthem to protest police brutality in 2016. It has become a front-and-center topic again after nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd while in police custody on May 25.

Ditka has voiced opposition to the move since 2017, when he said on Westwood One’s Monday Night Football pregame show “there has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of.”

Ditka would not allow it in new football league

Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Mike Ditka at a podium with "100" and the Chicago Bears logo.
Mike Ditka does not believe athletes should be taking a knee during the national anthem, holding his position from 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Ditka is the chairman of the Extreme Football League, shortened to X League, that plans to kick off in April 2021.

He was asked by TMZ Sports if he would allow kneeling in his league, and he said he would not if it were up to him.

“I think there’s a way to protest and there’s a way to don’t protest. You don’t protest against the flag, and you don’t protest against this country who’s given you an opportunity to make a living playing a sport you never thought would happen. So I don’t want to hear all the crap.”

The league was originally founded as the Lingerie Football League and rebranded to the Legends Football League in 2009. It has eight teams in Los Angeles, Austin, Denver, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Kansas City and Omaha.

Women athletes have been at the forefront of social justice reform in sports over the years. The Minnesota Lynx took a stand in 2016 before Kaepernick took a knee and the WNBA has dedicated its 2020 season to Breonna Taylor and Black women impacted by police brutality.

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