NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka said that anyone who kneels during the national anthem should leave the country in an interview with TMZ Sports on Sunday.
"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," he said.
Ditka, who is slated to be the chairman of the X League, a new women's football organization, made the comments when asked is he would allow protests during the national anthem.
"You don't protest against the flag 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," Ditka said. "So, I don't want to hear all the crap."
The former Chicago Bears head coach, reiterated, however, that he does not have the final say on the league's policy and was just stating his personal feelings.
The controversial act of kneeling during during the national anthem as a sign of protest against racial injustice and police treatment of minorities gained popularity when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started doing it in 2016.
Some high-profile NFL players such as Drew Brees changed their stance against the practice following the May death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while in the custody of the Minneapolis police.
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