Joe Namath Supports National Anthem Protests: 'Look Up the Meaning of Oppression'

The Pro Football Hall of Famer spoke to Jim Gray before Monday Night Football and was asked about players protesting during the national anthem, a topic that has dominated headlines throughout the early NFL season.

The Bears elected not to comment.

Responding to former National Football League coach Mike Ditka, who said there's "no oppression" in modern society, Namath spoke up for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

In fact, he says "There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of".

"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, "some of these dash cams and shootings that were done to unarmed people".

Ditka said if he were coaching now, he would require players to stand for the national anthem, or they wouldn't play.

Joe Namath also rebuked Ditka.

But all of a sudden, it's become a big deal now - about oppression.

Packers tight end Martellus Bennett, whose 90 receptions in 2014 smashed Ditka's franchise record for a tight end, sent the following Tweet with three pairs of rolling eyes at the end: "Hasn't seen oppression in 100 years, bruh?" "I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunity. If you want to work, if you want to try, you want to put effort - I think you can accomplish anything". People rise to the top and they became very influential people in our country by doing the right thing.

There was no response from Ditka to an email from NBC News seeking comment on the furor and his agent Steven Mandell could not be reached for comment. And we've watched that throughout our history of our country. Hell, if Ditka was born even five years ago he'd have quite a hard time arguing that there's been no oppression during his lifetime.

"I think there's been a somewhat of a disappointment with a lot of folks on how our country's been looked at, how our flag has been treated with respect", Namath said.

"If you don't respect this flag and this country, then you don't know what this is all about". He added that he was "old fashioned" and closed by saying, "And that's the way I feel". You have to be colour blind in this country. They were praised by those who don't believe in the protests or what they stand for, and also by those who want politics out of sports altogether. "If you don't respect our country, then you shouldn't be in this country playing football", he told Gray.

Listen to the entire Gray-Ditka interview here.

Vanessa Coleman