ESPN Dumps Mike Ditka From ‘NFL Countdown’ After He Calls Barack Obama ‘Worst President We’ve Ever Had’
March 9 / Rick Chandler / SportsGrid
The thing that will haunt Mike Ditka for the rest of his days is not the people who tell him that he was nothing as a head coach without Buddy Ryan. And it's not the fact that he traded away the New Orleans Saints' future for one player (RB Ricky Williams) in the 1999 Draft. And it's not even that he's a sellout -- wearing a Green Bay Packers sweater for a McDonald's commercial last year.
Ditka's biggest regret, he says, is deciding not to run for the U.S. Senate in 2004 -- a seat that was eventually won by Barack Obama.
Ditka instead pursued his broadcasting career, where he's been a football analyst for ESPN since 2006. But today his employers bit him in the ass, removing the Chicago icon from its Sunday NFL Countdown show for remarks Ditka made about President Obama on a radio show recently. WGN-TV Chicago:
As for Obama, Ditka said the current commander-in-chief was “the worst president we’ve ever had.”
“Barack Obama is a fine man,” Ditka said. “He’s pleasant, he’d be great to play golf with. He’s not a leader. This country needs leadership. It needs direction. It needs somebody that steps up front."
Ditka went on to say “If I were to vote tomorrow, I’d probably vote for Trump.”
ESPN had issued a memo in January warning talent to lay off the political commentary. This was tested immediately by noted arch-conservative Curt Schilling, an ESPN baseball analyst who can't seem to shut up about politics. This past summer Schilling was dropped from Little League World Series duties for a tweet in which he compared Muslims to Nazis.
And on March 1, just over a month after ESPN issued the memo, Schilling appeared on Kansas City’s 610 sports radio and ripped both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, saying that Clinton "should be buried under a jail", and of Trump "There has been no depth to anything he’s said." ESPN said that it is "addressing" the issue. Excerpt from the memo:
We should refrain from political editorializing, personal attacks or “drive-by” comments regarding the candidates and their campaigns. Approved commentaries on sports-specific issues, or seeking responses from candidates on relevant news issues, are appropriate. However perceived endorsements should be avoided. (In others cases guidelines on social media, acceptable commentary and political advocacy should prevail).
There's no word on whether Ditka will still appear on ESPN Live. He's also a regular on CBS Radio-Westwood One's Monday Night Football pregame show.
Ditka won his only Super Bowl as a head coach in 1986, two days before the Challenger Shuttle disaster. As a result the Bears didn't get the traditional trip to the White House. But Obama invited the team there 25 years later in 2011 to get their honor, at which time Ditka called Obama "one of us." No good deed goes unpunished, I suppose.
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