Sports

Mike Ditka: kneeling athletes should ‘get the hell out of the country’

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: Mike Ditka of the NLF 100 All-Time Team is honored on the field prior to Super Bowl LIV between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Mike Ditka didn’t mince words when he was asked about athletes who kneel during the national anthem.

“If it was up to me, I’d say no,” Ditka responded when asked about kneeling. “If you can’t respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country. That’s the way I feel. Of course, I’m old-fashioned. So, I’m only going to say what I feel.”

Ditka is the Chairman of the X League, which is a women’s tackle football league that according to its website is set to make its debut in April.

The X League did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.

Once known as the Lingerie Football League, it was rebranded as the Legends Football League in 2013. In 2019, the Legends Football League announced that it would be shutting down. The league was rebranded once again as the Extreme Football League, or “X League.”

The 2020 season has been postponed until April, its website says.

Ditka has spoken out against kneeling before, and he apologized in 2017 for his controversial comments on the matter after he said, “There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of,” according to CNN affiliate KWQC.

The subject has returned to the spotlight again with professional sports resuming play as social unrest continues across the country following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

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

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first began kneeling in 2016 as a protest against racial injustice and police brutality.

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