CHICAGO (AP) — Mike Ditka has apologized for saying he wasn’t aware any racial oppression over the last 100 years in the United States.

The famed Chicago Bears coach came under fire for making the comments during a radio interview on Monday about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. He issued an apology the next day, saying he was talking about professional football and not society as a whole.

“I have absolutely seen oppression in society in the last 100 years,” the Hall of Fame tight end and Super Bowl-winning coach said in statement to WGN-TV in Chicago. “The interview was about the NFL and related issues. That’s where my head was at.”

The interview aired before the Chicago Bears played the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.

The 77-year-old old Ditka has previously made harsh comments about players who take a knee, which has sparked fierce debate about issues such as patriotism and protest. He said he would bench players who didn’t stand during the anthem.

Ditka went further on Monday, saying he didn’t know what “social injustices” players are protesting.

“There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of,” he said.

Ditka’s comments triggered a quick backlash, with many chastising him for seemingly ignoring or not knowing about Jim Crow Laws that enforced racial segregation and the lynching of African Americans that occurred well into Ditka’s lifetime.

“Great coach … clueless person,” tweeted retired NFL player Steve Smith.

Even in Chicago, where Ditka is revered, the reaction was critical and incredulous.

“It’s so ridiculous, it’s hard to have a conversation about it,” Carmen DeFalco, an ESPN radio host in Chicago, told Chicago television station WLS-TV. “I don’t know how you could grow up in this country — especially when he did — and be completely unaware of something as significant as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.”

  1. If you fix the time scale his statement is accurate. Over the last 30 to 40 years there has not been any of the “social injustices” that people keep screaming and whining about. And before some says I am wrong look at what has actually been happening – not what people claim has been happening. All of the problems certain groups are dealing with are related to the BEHAVIOR of the individuals in groups, the ATTITUDE of the individuals in the groups, and the EXCUSE MAKING people make related to the behavior and attitude of the individuals in the groups. People are tired of those who “cry wolf” all the time. The root of all of the current problems can be traced to choices made in the 1970s related to the promotion of double standard, quotas, and rejection of education. Then add in the choice to isolate from the over all society and one can see the consequences. Bad behaviors, bad attitudes, and the promotion of such, create a result related to the behaviors and attitudes. Learn about group identity and the consequences of it. A classic example of group identity is motorcycle clubs and what people expect when they see a group of motorcycles on the road.

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