Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka said he would have benched players who refused to stand during the national anthem while he was coach.
As professional sports players across the country continue to kneel during the national anthem in support of Black Lives Matter and ongoing protests, Ditka drew fire for telling TMZ in a recent interview that players should “get the hell out of the country” if they “can’t respect our national anthem.”
“Oh, they wouldn’t have played for us,” Ditka told Fox News host Jesse Watters on Saturday night’s “Watters’ World” when asked what he would have done if one of his Bears players had refused to stand. “It’s that simple.”
“I would bench them,” Ditka added. “That’s it. Until they found that it was honorable to respect the country. This country has given them an opportunity to become millionaires. You understand what I’m saying? You can’t play American football in Peru. You can’t play in England. American football can only be played in America. And you make a lot of money doing it. Enjoy it, respect it, but don’t act like a clown.”
Watters wondered why kneeling happens only in the U.S. when European countries “have done and thought worse things.” (RELATED: American Flag, Bibles Reportedly Burned In Portland Riots)
“I don’t know,” he responded. “I really don’t know. I don’t understand why … I grew up in a community probably that was at least 50% black, 50% white. A steel mill town in Pennsylvania. We didn’t have any problems. I played football my whole life. We had more black football players on our team than we did whites, but there was never a problem. We played football. It wasn’t about the color of a guy’s skin, it about the way he played the game and what his contributions would be to society and to the school. I mean, I don’t get. What’s the big difference?”
Ditka coached the Chicago Bears from 1982 to 1992 and won Super Bowl XX in 1985.