Mike Ditka Thinks Black People Have Not Seen Oppression In Last 100 Years As He Discusses NFL Protests

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In light of the NFL protests, prominent league legend Mike Ditka says blacks have not been oppressed in American in 100 years. Leon Halip/Getty Images

Former Bears player and coach Mike Ditka has sparked a backlash after saying he is not aware of any oppression of black people in the past 100 years.

As more NFL players protest police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem, the Chicago legend said the "idea of oppression" has suddenly "become a big deal now."

"There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of," he said on Westwood One's pre-game show Monday night. "Now maybe I'm not watching it as carefully as other people."

Addressing the protests specifically, Ditka added, "Is that the stage for this? If you want to protest, or whatever you want to protest, you've got a right to do that, but I think you're a professional athlete, you have an obligation to the game. I think you have to respect the game. ... I don't see a lot of respect for the game. I just see respect for their own individual opinions.

"Opinions are like noses, we all have one. Some are good. Some are bad," he added.

In this case, Ditka's opinion was neither good nor bad. It was just wrong. The early part of the last century featured Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation and remained in place until the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and '60s. Black students educated in substandard, racially segregated schools, until finally allowed to attend elite colleges, albeit under protection from federal troops. Hundreds of blacks were lynched between 1917 and 1964. Miscegenation laws prevented blacks from marrying whomever they chose.

Today, statistics show that police are much more likely to stop black people than white people, which leads to more shootings, the central issue that has motivated the Take A Knee protests.

Unsurprisingly, Ditka's comments prompted criticism, with a number of people pointing out instances of oppression endured by the African American community in the U.S. over the past century.

One social media user, My Mind Speaks, wrote: "No oppression for over 100 years, ‪#Ditka? My mom was born in '49 and lived thru the Jim Crow South. She's 68. Can you count?"

Another, Price Thomas, added: "if you're mad at #ditka i'm confused why you're surprised that an old white dude is an out of touch racist."

It's not the first time Ditka has been critical of the NFL kneeling protests, though he did say he would bench players for opting to join the peaceful protests, which have also been criticized by President Donald Trump, and most recently by Vice President Mike Pence, who walked out of a game this weekend after players knelt.