Ed Show Guest: Former NFL Coach Mike Ditka Was a 'Segregation-Era' Player' Who Dictated 'His Will' to 'Black Players'

To close out his MSNBC show on Thursday, Ed Schultz invited on a Native American social activist to discuss the push by liberals and sympathetic members of the sports media to force the NFL’s Washington Redskins to change their name. 

In discussing recent supporters of the name in Sarah Palin and former NFL coach and player Mike Ditka, author and Native American activist Gyasi Ross smeared Ditka for being a “segregation-era football player who became, appropriately, a coach of – of a team – a team – an NFL team that was comprised largely of black players that he could dictate his will to.” [MP3 audio here; Video below]

In addition, he bashed Ditka with this additional comment: “There is a reason why Mike Ditka is not a football coach now and is a commentator and that’s because he can't take input from people of color.”

When asked by Schultz what it will “take to move the pendulum” to force the NFL to have Redskin’s owner Daniel Snyder change the team’s name, Ross suggested possible divestment campaigns against the team’s major sponsors and opined that Snyder is on desperate footing if he “is at the point where he’s asking for Mike Ditka and Sarah Palin to give him credibility on a topic that relates to social justice and race and ethnicity and Native Americans.”

Ross ended that comment by informing viewers that Ditka and Palin “have the combined cultural competency of Derek Zoolander and they’re going to say dumb things” and therefore Snyder and the Redskins name are in trouble.

Later, when asked why he thinks that the name has not yet been changed, Ross replied that individuals such as Ditka, Palin and Snyder "represent an antiquated and particularly crusty strain of white privilege that still thinks it’s very appropriate to speak for people of color and for Native people specifically."

On the topic of Ross having described Ditka as a “segregation-era player,” he played from 1961 to 1972, which placed the early years of his Hall-of-Fame career during the height of the civil rights movement. However, it is far from fair to link him to a decades-long policy of discrimination against African-Americans. No one describes U.S. presidents from, say, Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy as segregation-era presidents and neither should NFL players who simply happened to be alive and played at any point through the 1960s.

In addition to his absurd comments on Ditka being unable to “take input from people of color," it's appropriate to point out that he serves as a panelist on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown (which is a three-hour show during the NFL season) where four of his five fellow panelists are African American (with three of them having been with Ditka since he joined the panel in 2006). Also, his tenure as an NFL coach included leading the Chicago Bears to a title in Super Bowl XX in 1986.


The complete transcript on the Washington Redskins from MSNBC’s The Ed Show on August 28 is transcribed below.

MSNBC’s The Ed Show

August 28, 2014

5:55 p.m. Eastern

ED SCHULTZ: Joining us now, Gyasi Ross, attorney, social activist and author of "How Do I Say I Love You in Indian"? Jossi, good to have you with us tonight. Are you a politically incorrect – or politically correct idiot? [Laughing] I mean, that's what – the description that’s out there. What is it going to take to move the pendulum on this story to have the NFL change the name of the team in question? 

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: ‘Da Intolerance]

GYASI ROSS: Well, look. Despite what Mike Ditka and Sarah Palin and Dan Snyder think, Native people are already past the moral judgment on the name, whether it's right or wrong and actually mobilizing and taking action and so that includes stuff like a possible divestment campaign against Federal Express, Bank of America and other sponsors of the Redskins team. Look, if Dan Snyder is at the point where he’s asking for Mike Ditka and Sarah Palin to give him credibility on a topic that relates to social justice and race and ethnicity and Native Americans, then he's in more trouble than we thought and this name will change sooner than we thought. Mike Ditka and Sarah Palin, they have the combined cultural competency of Derek Zoolander and they’re going to say dumb things, but the fact that we’re giving them an audience and the fact that Dan Snyder feels it’s important to employ them, then that speaks to how desperate his straits are. 

SCHULTZ: Why do you think there is so much resistance to this change? We’ve seen changes in society in reference to minorities. Why – why is this a heavy lift for people? 

ROSS: Because – so just using Mike Ditka, Sarah Palin and Dan Snyder as an example. They – they kind of represent an antiquated and particularly crusty strain of white privilege that still thinks it’s very appropriate to speak for people of color and for Native people specifically and that manifests itself specifically, you know, Mike Ditka, he was a segregation-era football player who became, appropriately, a coach of – of a team – a team – an NFL team that was comprised largely of black players that he could dictate his will to. There is a reason why Mike Ditka is not a football coach now and is a commentator and that’s because he can't take input from people of color. 

SCHULTZ: Well, he's basically saying don't move my cheese. I mean, that’s basically –  this is the way I am and this is the way I’m always going to be, whether you like it or not. NFL broadcasters Tony Dungy and Phil Simms are saying – and other sports writers and columnists are saying they’re will not be using the team's name when discussing games this season. This is part of a trend, isn’t it? This is what it takes. 

ROSS: Absolutely and, you know, just to discuss the merits of what Ditka and Palin said, you know, really quickly, absolutely and there is a strain of liberalism that does outraged at everything, but I will tell you, as a Native person myself, and somebody who is in contact with Native people constantly, there is a very real, tangible, and credible amount of Native people who are dedicated to this cause and who are working and spending money and resources to get this changed. It is not just white liberals. It’s, in fact, a group, the party that's affected by this. 

SCHULTZ: A story was on Talkers this afternoon that at George Washington University, there are two professors who think they are going to be going after the radio station licenses of stations that carry the NFL team. 

ROSS: Good.

SCHULTZ: They will go after their radio station license because of obscenity. They compare it to that and also hate speech. So, these wheels are in motion. It is going to come down to the money. When it starts affecting Snyder's pocketbook, this is really what it’s going to take. Don't you think? 

ROSS: Absolutely and, ultimately, the team –  he's putting an inferior product on the field and combined with this downward pressure that’s coming as a result of professors going after him in court. The recent copy right case that he lost, the team sucks and so these things will conspire to make the change come about sooner rather than later and the only that’s standing in its way is obstinance.

SCHULTZ: Mike Ditka and Sarah Palin, I guess. Gyasi Ross, good to have you with us tonight.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is a news analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division