Speaking to TMZ Sports, legendary NFL coach and tight end Mike Ditka, who will be the chairman of the female tackle football X League, pulled no punches when asked what his position was on kneeling during the national anthem. Ditka snapped, “If you can’t respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country.”
“The whole kneeling thing in the NFL —you’ve got guys saying that they’re gonna do it,” the TMZ interviewer asked. “I’m seeing all these baseball players now, different teams. Last night watching baseball you got the Reds kneeling, the A’s, the Giants, lots of teams are kneeling, athletes kneeling. In your league here —you’re the chairman of this thing — is that going to be allowed if the women want to take a knee during the anthem? What’s the policy on that for you guys?”
Ditka, who played for the NFL champion Chicago Bears in 1963, later won a Super Bowl as a player with the Dallas Cowboys, won the Super Bowl as coach of the Bears in 1985, and was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1988, answered:
If it was up to me I’d say no. 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. I think there’s a way you protest and a way you don’t protest. You don’t protest against the flag and you don’t protest against this country who’s given you the opportunity to make a living playing a sport that you never thought would happen. So, I don’t want to hear all the crap. You wanna try it, try it. You don’t, it’s okay.
Commenting on his league, which will feature 8 teams in major markets like L.A., Chicago and Seattle, Ditka, one of only two men to win the Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach, and head coach, said:
Women play every sport there is in the country except football, so why not football? And that’s what it is; it’s a league where these women have a lot of talent and are pretty good athletes. They like to play football. I mean, it’s strange, but it’s only strange in the sense that it hasn’t happened yet, But it’s gonna happen. I think when it does happen, I think people will really enjoy it.
These are talented athletes; they’re more than just hitting each other. They’re talented athletes. It’ll be fun to watch. Being honest with you, I can’t tell you exactly how it’s going to go. But me as a fan, as a football fan, I would like to see them play. I don’t know how it’ll be; it might be great; it might not be. But I think it’ll be interesting.
Who thought that women boxing each other would be great? Or wrestling with each other? I think it’s a physical thing, but I think football appeals to so many people, and then seeing women playing the game and playing not only with skill, it’ll be fun to watch.
The TMZ interviewer noted that in some sports like MMA and UFC, sometimes the women’s version is more popular than the men’s. He asked Ditka if that could happen with women’s football. Ditka replied:
It’ll never get more popular than men’s, but still, it can be very popular. And why not? If women want to play a man’s sport — and I call football a man’s sport —go ahead and do it. And if they’re gonna knock the crap out of each other, more power to ’em, because that’s what people want to see. And I don’t say that to be ‘smart,’ I’m saying it because that’s what they want to see. These women are pretty and good looking and want to knock the crap out of each other — we’ll see how it works!