Mike Ditka on anthem protesters: Get the hell out of the country

Dan Mennella
July 27, 2020 - 9:04 am

NFL legend Mike Ditka says he takes exception to players protesting during the national anthem.

The former Chicago Bears tight end and head coach has been tabbed as chairman of the X League, a women's tackle football league, and anthem protests wouldn't be permitted if it were up to him, Ditka told TMZ Sports.

"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."

The X League was slated to begin in April 2021, with eight teams competing in the league, it was previously reported.

The NFL Hall of Famer's comments appear aligned with those of President Trump, who Ditka has expressed support for previously. Trump has renewed his vows not to watch sports leagues that allow players to protest during the playing of the national anthem, and said Saints quarterback Drew Brees should not have apologized for saying he could never support a player "disrespecting the flag."

"You don't protest against the flag," Ditka told TMZ, "and you don't protest against this country who's given you the opportunities to make a living playing a sport that you never thought would happen. So, I don't want to hear all the crap."

Nationwide demonstrations after the senseless killing of George Floyd have carried into the sports world, where professional athletes have ramped up calls to end police brutality and systemic racism.

It was unclear whether any X League players were planning similar protests. Over the weekend, several WNBA players walked off the court during the playing of the national anthem in remembrance of Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT who was fatally shot in a no-knock raid in her home in Louisville, Kentucky.

Facing immense pressure, the NFL several weeks ago apologized for the years-long mishandling of its response to player protests, and vowed to do better. Commissioner Roger Goodell said he encouraged any team that was interested in signing former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to do so.

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