Upon further review, maybe Mike Ditka has seen some oppression.
Or perhaps being criticized for his remarks earlier this week just brought it to his attention.
Ditka issued a statement Tuesday night to try to take the edge off comments he made about players who chose to kneel during the anthem, which came off as out-of-touch and detached from the racial realities of the United States for the last century.
“The characterization of the statement that I made does not reflect the context of the question that I was answering and certainly does not reflect my views throughout my lifetime,” Ditka said in a statement, via ESPN.com. “I have absolutely seen oppression in society in the last 100 years and I am completely intolerant of any discrimination. The interview was about the NFL and the related issues. That’s where my head was at. I was quoted in the interview stating, ‘You have to be colorblind.’ I stated that you should look at a person for what they are and not the color of their skin. I’m sorry if anyone was offended.”
The problem with the colorblind argument is that it begins with the assumption that the colors are equal. And while that’s a laudable goal, it’s a laughable interpretation of American history. They have not been, as perhaps Ditka remembered from growing up during the Civil Rights era. That’s what led players, beginning with Colin Kaepernick, to kneel for the national anthem to protest inequality of law enforcement response for racial minorities.
The Hall of Fame tight end for the Cowboys, Bears and Eagles, and former Bears and Saints coach can claim he was taken out of context, but here’s what he said. After being asked by host Jim Gray on Westwood One about previous athlete-activists such as Muhammad Ali and Jesse Owens, Ditka replied:
“I don’t know what social injustices [there] have been,” Ditka said. “Muhammad Ali rose to the top. Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. Is everything based on color? I don’t see it that way. You have to be color blind in this country. You have to look at a person for what he is and what he stands for and how he produces — not by the color of his skin. That has never had anything to do with anything.
“But, all 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. Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people. I think the opportunity is there for everybody — race, religion, creed, color, nationality. If you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort in, you can accomplish anything. And we have watched that throughout our history of our country.”
We have also watched the deck stacked clearly in favor of one color over others during that 100-year timeframe Ditka represented. But because it always worked in his favor and he was able to work hard and become successful, Ditka had no real reason to consider that others might not be as fortunate.