Colin Kaepernick

Moon: Bears fans can love 'Da Coach' and not agree with Mike Ditka's political views

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AP

Moon: Bears fans can love 'Da Coach' and not agree with Mike Ditka's political views

"So, what do you think of Mike Ditka’s comments?"

The question cropped up in more than one conversation the morning after the Bears’ 20-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. It was in reference to remarks from Ditka to Jim Gray on Westwood One’s pregame show Monday night, in which Mike declared, among other things, that he hasn’t seen the social injustice that some athletes have protested, and that "there has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of. Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people."

The problem here is where to start. Because the fact is that there are too many angles in what Mike voiced (social injustice, protest venues, disrespect) to have just one reaction, and because, perhaps surprisingly even to myself, I honestly don’t have a violent reaction one way or the other.

If that’s what Mike believes, so be it. He’s got as much right to think that as anyone who thinks the last 100 years were replete with oppression and social injustice. Mike did offer the example of Muhammad Ali rising to the top; he didn’t mention, though, that a younger Ali/Cassius Clay was denied service in one of his hometown restaurants even while wearing his Olympic light-heavyweight gold medal. But that’s digressing. Louis Armstrong or Yogi Berra (the original source is debated) famously remarked, “what some folks don’t know, you can't tell 'em."

As far as the protests, which Mike doesn’t think should be taken onto the sidelines, it’s probably not what I would do if I were standing on a sideline before a game. I might link arms with teammates (expressing unity doesn’t qualify as "protest" to me), but regardless of what I feel, I’m not going to disrespect something of immense value and pride to you. That’s just me. My choice.

(One thought/question: If every American throughout Soldier Field and in every other NFL stadium had linked arms after the events of 9/11, would that be derided as disrespectful? I doubt it. But that’s also digressing. "Disrespect" is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. Donald Trump saying to Bill O’Reilly, in a conversation about Vladimir Putin being a killer, “There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" – I suppose that's showing respect for our nation, flag and soldiers; I'm just not seeing it.)

In fairness to Mike, he explicitly said that you've got every right to protest, and he wasn’t condemning or criticizing anybody. Also in the eye of the beholder.

I tend to second some sentiments expressed by Jack Nicklaus, who told Golfweek, “[Thoughts on the protests] is a very difficult question to answer when you ask me. Everyone who answers that question cannot properly answer it. They don’t want to disrespect the rights of the kids. And you don’t want to disrespect our country. So how do you answer it?”
 
Amen.

Joe Maddon gives Cubs space during national anthem: ‘Everybody’s got the right to express themselves’

Joe Maddon gives Cubs space during national anthem: ‘Everybody’s got the right to express themselves’

MILWAUKEE – As protests formed at NFL stadiums across the country, sending an anti-Trump message after the president’s inflammatory rhetoric, a group of about 11 Cubs players and coaches stood off the third-base line while a men’s a cappella group sung the national anthem before Sunday’s 5-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

The night before, Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to follow in Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps and kneel during the national anthem at the Oakland Coliseum, sending a jolt through a conservative industry.  

“Like I’ve always talked about, everybody’s got the right to express themselves in the manner in which they feel,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I’ve always felt that way.”

That’s easer said than done in a team sport that doesn’t have the same outspoken culture as NBA or NFL locker rooms. It will be fascinating to see if this starts a similar movement across baseball. The Cubs are a marquee team that has already visited the White House twice since January and will likely return to Washington in October for a must-watch playoff series against the Nationals.

“I have no idea,” Maddon said. “We’re going to wait and see. And, again, if it does, that’s fine. I have no issues. I’m all into self-expression. And if a player feels that he needs to express himself in that manner, then so be it.”

[RELATED — Joe Maddon feels the heat from White House comments and rethinks Trump vs. sports world]

Maxwell, the son of a U.S. Army veteran who made his big-league debut last year, told Bay Area reporters this decision had been building and rooted in his own childhood in Alabama, where Trump appeared on Friday at a rally for Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange and told the crowd that NFL owners should fire any “son of a b----” kneeling during the national anthem.      

“The point of my kneeling was not to disrespect our military or our constitution or our country,” Maxwell said. “My hand was over my heart because I love this country and I have family members, including my father, who bled for this country, and who continue to serve.

“At the end of the day, this is the best country on the planet. I am and forever will be an American citizen and grateful to be here. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention, and I’m kneeling for the people who don’t have a voice.

“This goes beyond the black and Hispanic communities because right now we have a racial divide that’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country saying it’s basically OK to treat people differently. I’m kneeling for a cause, but I’m in no way disrespecting my country or my flag.”

Maddon’s anti-rules philosophy gives the Cubs the space to do whatever they think’s necessary to get ready for the next game. It’s freedom from: dress codes on road trips, guidelines on facial hair and overloaded mandatory batting-practice sessions.

That hands-off approach has worked to the point where the defending World Series champs could clinch a second straight National League Central title as soon as Tuesday at Busch Stadium and celebrate in front of the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s not unusual to see only a small group of players, coaches and staffers standing on the field during the national anthem.

“That’s up to them,” Maddon said. “I’ve never really had a policy regarding being out for the anthem or not. A lot of times guys like to do different things right before the game begins. Sometimes, you’re on the road, you hit later and you get in later and then your time is at a premium. So I’ve never really had a specific theory about coming out for your anthem at all.”

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Both teams are on track to be drafting in the top five, and the inevitable “the loser is the winner” talk has made its rounds, meaning that a defeat moves the loser higher in the draft order. The reality is that neither team will tank the game for draft position.

But the chances of two woeful teams playing well are slim. The 49ers won in Week 1 and then have lost 10 straight. The Bears are trying to avoid losing four straight for the first time under John Fox.

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Quarterback Colin Kaepernick burst upon the NFL scene in 2012 with a blowout of the Bears in his first start. He has regained his starting job in San Francisco and is still one of the prototypical mobile quarterbacks.

But the 49ers are the NFL’s worst defense in both points and yardage allowed, and they are the worst rushing defense in the league. Expect the Bears to try exploiting that and give quarterback Matt Barkley a balanced run-pass game plan.

Prediction: Bears 24, 49ers 20