Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka said during a radio interview Monday that he doesn't believe there has been oppression in the United States in the "last 100 years."
ESPN reports that the former NFL tight end and head coach made his comments in an interview with Jim Gray on Westwood One's Monday Night Football pregame show when discussing the issue of players sitting or kneeling during the national anthem as a way to protest social injustice.
The issue has been a topic of national debate, which intensified after President Donald Trump's comments that NFL owners should "fire" players who don't stand for the anthem.
"All of a sudden, it's become a big deal now, about oppression," Ditka said. "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. ... If you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort into yourself, I think you can accomplish anything."
Ditka's parents originally came to America as Urkranian immigrants.
"Well, I guess if he walked in a black man's shoes, he would understand," said Otis Wilson, who played for Ditka in Chicago from 1982 to '87,. "I would say all lives matter, and the rules are not level for everybody. Let's say the average Joe on the street doesn't really have a platform.
Former New York Jets great Joe Namath blasted Ditka on Tuesday:
“Look up the meaning of oppression,” Namath said on “Fox & Friends." “Look up the definition of oppression, and you understand that it’s obviously taken place.”
“Going back to what Colin Kaepernick initially did, it was to point out some injustice that’s being done to the black race,” Namath said. “Or to people that obviously when you look — and I say obviously, some of these dash cams and shootings that were done to unarmed people. He was reaching out to try to get it more investigated. So that’s where this oppression thing comes in.”