Director takes personal approach to CTE in ‘Requiem for Running Back’
ENTERTAINMENT 11/09/2017, 01:31pm
BY RICHARD ROEPER
Yes, we already know there’s a connection between a career in football and the likely occurrence of multiple concussions and possible long-term brain damage.
The PBS “Frontline” documentary “League of Denial,” the Will Smith drama “Concussion” and books such as “Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away” preceded Rebecca Carpenter’s “Requiem for a Running Back” — but Carpenter’s ★★★★ film might be the most searing, most powerful, most personal and most unforgettable take on this most American of tragedies.
Lewis Carpenter was an early NFL star. He played on three championship teams in the 1950s and 1960s, and then spent 31 years as a coach in the league. Carpenter was a handsome, charismatic, imposing, mercurial figure — larger than life to daughter Rebecca.
Mr. Carpenter was diagnosed postmortem with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which led to Rebecca embarking on a multi-year journey to re-examine her upbringing, to talk to NFL legends such as Mike Ditka about CTE, and to conduct interviews with former teammates of her father as well as former players he coached.
The end result is a brilliant and brave and beautifully honest film.
For director of CTE film, an interview with Mike Ditka was a must
BY BILL ZWECKER
Among the key interview subjects in “Requiem for a Running Back,” a documentary now showing at the Gene Siskel Film Center, is Mike Ditka, a man whose professional path frequently crossed that of Lew Carpenter, the legendary Green Bay Packer player and coach at the center of the film.
“I knew he was a hard-nosed guy,” said Rebecca Carpenter, director of the film about her father. “I knew he saw football as a meritocracy. He believed you had to be tough to survive in the sport.”
When she learned Ditka had taken over Gridiron Greats, an organization focused on helping ex-players in dire need of medical services for financial assistance, it was a “big deal. If Mike Ditka was actually getting involved in philanthropy to help former players, I knew I had to speak to him.”
Though her father displayed signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy as his behavior deteriorated, Carpenter began the “Requiem” project hoping to discover CTE was not a solid thing — that perhaps the neurological disorder “was greatly over-reported by both the mainstream and medical press.”
Her many, many conversations with ex-players, their family members, her own mother and sisters and key medical professionals convinced Carpenter that “while we don’t know the exact chemical and mechanical events that cause CTE — that causes the toxicity that doesn’t clear out of the brain after injury — we do now know approximately what that process is.”
As for Ditka, there is no longer any question. In the film, at a critical moment, the NFL icon is asked, “Would you let your 8-year-old kid play football?” Without hesitation, Ditka affirms, “No.”
The Daughter of an NFL Player Explores Football’s CTE Crisis
“Requiem for a Running Back” is a personal, in-depth journey into the sport’s consequences
NOVEMBER 7, 2017
If you’re a football fan, it can sometimes feel like your sport is under siege by enemies both real (Donald Trump) and not actually a threat at all (national anthem protesters). One of the concrete threats is the long-term implications of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. As more players are diagnosed with CTE each year, Rebecca Carpenter’s Requiem for a Running Back offers a deeply personal perspective into the crisis.
The director’s father, Lew Carpenter, played professional football from 1953 to 1963, winning championships with the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi. After his death in 2010, Boston University surprised his family by requesting Carpenter’s brain for study. The university then informed them that Lew had been suffering from advanced CTE, and Rebecca embarked on what would become a three-year journey to fully grasp the effect the disease had on her relationship with her father, inadvertently putting herself in the center of a growing debate about the future viability of the sport.
Carpenter isn’t a polished interviewer, but her candor and longstanding connections to the sport provide access that we wouldn’t see otherwise, a fact apparent with former NFL player John Hilton, who takes an agonizing two minutes attempting to answer the question, “Do you know why you’re here?” She interviews a wide range of friends, family, doctors (including Bennet Omalu, the inspiration for Concussion), and former players who derisively dismiss the NFL’s self-reporting concussion requirements (the league “incentivizes self-harm,” as one puts it). Requiem is ultimately less about a disease and more about coming to terms with our past, while also reminding us pro football has had to be dragged screaming onto the right side of history regarding everything from civil rights to player safety.
Tonight is the theatrical debut of a film that’s telling a different story about life after football.
Requiem for a Runningback is a documentary by Rebecca Carpenter, daughter of former NFL running back Lew Carpenter.
Lew was a former Detroit Lion and Green Bay Packer who played with local NFL hero Bart Starr in the 1960’s.
Rebecca and a group of women are sounding a different type of alarm about chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a disease caused by repeated brain trauma.
Carpenter learned her father had the diagnosis after he died, a discovery that eventually led to her making the film.
“I owe a lot to my father and the sacrifice he made with his brain and to the sport of football,” Carpenter said. “So I really wanted to put the pieces back together again, really looking at the cost-benefits, because I also have a nephew who is the starting quarterback on his high school team in Texas.”
Later this month, CBS42 brings you a special report on football, a look inside the lives of those who’ve played the game from behind closed doors.
In our report, we’ll explore the questions in an ever-growing chorus of those sounding the alarm about the effects of repetitive head injury from the little league to the big league.
November 6, 2017 | 8:30pm
After he died in 2010, former pro footballer Lew Carpenter (shown with daughters Cathy, Lisa and Cheryl in 1962) was posthumously diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy.Courtesy Rebecca Carpenter
After Rebecca Carpenter’s father passed away in 2010 at the age of 78, her family received a call from Boston University asking to examine his brain and spine.
“They said they were doing a study to examine the impact of concussions on former football players,” recalls Carpenter, whose father, Lew Carpenter, was a running back for the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers in the ’50s and ’60s. He played for legendary coach Vince Lombardi and later coached in the league for another three decades.
Though he never had a concussion, researchers found that the father of four still had advanced chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by head trauma.
Carpenter’s family — whose entire world revolved around pigskin — was devastated by the news.
“This was going to possibly affect every man who had been significant to me in my life. My father was the 17th case at BU. I thought, ‘What is the agenda here?’” Carpenter, a filmmaker, tells The Post. “I was angry that BU was trying to ruin football for my family and ruin my dad’s legacy. I set out hoping the study was being exaggerated.”
Armed with the new information from Boston University, Carpenter set out to make a film, looking at her dear father with more sympathetic eyes. The result is “Requiem for a Running Back,” a powerful documentary that explores the science behind CTE and tells the history of professional football through Lew’s career and personal life. (Carpenter and Dr. Ann McKee will host an evening screening at Cinema Village on Nov. 15.)
‘I realized how much of my adult life had been spent trying to fill in the gaps to make [my father] whole.’
The diagnosis also shed light on his changing personality. Though he was known for his humor and great storytelling, his post-playing years had been marked by periods of depression and wild mood swings.
“The last five years [of his life] were difficult,” she says. “He became very withdrawn and he had been a really social person. And you start thinking, ‘Gosh, maybe he doesn’t like me.’ But that didn’t make any sense because I know he loved me.”
In interviews with players he coached, football greats and families of other players dealing with the debilitating disease, Carpenter is able to reconstruct her complicated relationship with her father.
In one particularly uncomfortable scene, she interviews former Pittsburgh Steeler John Hilton, now deceased, who could barely string together a coherent sentence because he suffered from CTE. Carpenter and Hilton’s wife attempt to help him organize his thoughts.
“That’s when I realized how much of my adult life had been spent trying to fill in the gaps to make [my father] whole,” she says.
Filmmaker Rebecca Carpenter with her dad, Lew, at his induction into the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor in 2000 Courtesy of Rebecca Carpenter
At its heart, the film is an homage to her loving father and the sport that lifted him out of poverty, but ultimately cost him his quality of life.
“I think of it as a love story and a film as opposed to an investigative documentary,” says Carpenter.
After her father died, one of the players he coached for Green Bay in the ’70s and ’80s, James Lofton, now a CBS sportscaster, sent her an email revealing a side of the stoic gridiron warrior she didn’t know.
“James said that he can still hear [my dad’s] voice in his ears saying, ‘You gotta love it,’” referring to the game, says Carpenter.
“I thought, ‘For real? My dad and the word “love” in the same sentence?’ I don’t know the guy that James just described. In a way, I went on the road to find the Lew who said, ‘You gotta love it.’”
So Carpenter dug into his poor childhood in West Memphis, Ark., where he grew up the son of a truck driver and a waitress. She dissected her parents’ relationship, which began in high school and later dissolved. Carpenter’s mother recalls a vacant Lew leaving without so much as a discussion. But she also highlights the devoted father who coached not only NFL teams, but also her youth softball team, where he showed her tough love.
Cross-sections of Lew Carpenter’s brain (injected with dye) show high levels of tau protein at the edges, which is a marker of CTE.Courtesy of Rebecca Carpenter
“The way Lombardi would make his favorite players the example, we were his favorite players,” she says. “He thought we could handle anything. There was a real soulfulness about him. He was fun, but he was also the most competitive person you would ever meet.”
After making the film, Carpenter still finds her father’s postmortem diagnosis painful to accept. But she could feel her dad guiding her throughout the process.
“I wish every daughter had the opportunity to look at her aging parents and go back to the beginning,” she says. “Our story just happens to take place in the world of football. There are a lot of us who had a parent who was a mystery, and we can’t move on until we solve it.”
She also sees the game in a different light. Her nephew, who was a star high school player, even decided to stop playing the game after seeing the film.
“Football is such a beautiful sport, and being around a bunch of football players is the most fun,” she says. “But if you’re going to choose it, you need to understand the risks.”
Requiem for a Running Back
89 minutes · 2017
By J.R. JONES
This documentary about brain trauma in the NFL is largely anecdotal, but therein lies its power. Rebecca Carpenter set out to make the movie after her father, longtime running back and coach Lew Carpenter, died in 2010 and neurologists examining his brain tissue reported that he'd suffered for years from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). When a researcher shows Rebecca slides of her father's brain, she can't help but cry, and she begins to track down his old gridiron friends in search of answers. She presents a solid indictment of the league for its record of denial and delay, yet her movie is primarily the story of a grown child gaining a new perspective on her late father and their rocky relationship. Near the end, the medical issue lands on her doorstep a second time when her teenage nephew, who idolized his grandfather, sets out to win a football scholarship to college and follow him into the big leagues.
BY DAN T. BADGER
After over a dozen reviews on the FirstAndMonday, the film making community finally recognized me for my many contributions to the field of serious film criticism. I was invited to a screening based on the deep respect the film-makers had for my skills in assessing and critiquing film. Or so I thought. It turns out a friend of mine, who is very concerned with the subject of the documentary, asked me to go to the screening because he thinks I am a good guy or something. He had no idea I did movie reviews. So with the full disclosure that I went in sympathetic to the creators and fully expecting to be bored to drowsiness by a documentary, I am here to report on Requiem for a Running Back.
It was the perfect time for me to see this. By some weird serendipity I had listened to Rogan’s Podcast about mushrooms earlier in the day when he mentioned using mushrooms to treat Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). I have been reading about Rome’s gladiator revolt in Howard Fast’s Spartacus and the documentary itself mentions that football is the most violent sport since the gladiators. Finally, I picked up a graphic novel of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which had a succinct and probably accurate view on corporations.
We have been conditioned to treat the players like gladiators. A star is expected to sacrifice his body and soul for those extra inches that mean the difference between victory and agony. Movies play an enormous role in shaping our views on almost everything. The images they have presented of football players is that they are violent and out of control warriors who will do or die for our amusement. Any Given Sunday, North Dallas Forty, and The Longest Yard all tell us that the glory of winning is worth any risk. Death, paralysis, and even imprisonment are small prices for the football warrior to pay if it ends in victory.
Players are given Achilles’ Choice. The decision must be made to embrace an ordinary, unremarkable, and lengthy life or a fleeting life but lasting glory. Requiem explores the choice that 3 time champion Lew Carpenter made. It shows the effects his decision had on him and his family. It is told by his daughter and it is hard to watch at times. At the same time it delves into the medical discoveries of CTE and its subsequent denial by the National Football League.
The film uses contrast and comparison throughout in a powerful manner. Players are shown at the height of their skills and athleticism. Then the cost of that success is shown. The juxtaposition is often cringe worthy. Watching former great John Hilton struggle on film will drive home the severity of the problem and serves to quickly replace admiration with pity.
Mortalizing heroes and role models is something of a national past time. In many cases it is overstuffed with snark and jealousy. It can reek of schadenfreude when someone is taken down a peg or two to the level of mere humans. This film avoids that for the most part. The director’s pain at the memory of her father’s actions is clear. Equally obvious is her quest to try and understand and even forgive him for what must have been a terrible childhood.
She casts a pretty wide net to give context to what she saw and lived through. The evolution of professional football from the 1950’s to modern times is outlined. Essentially, the league learned that violence made the game more exciting and appealing. That is what they marketed. Football became a weekly war for people who weren’t playing to safely enjoy. It wasn’t lost on players like Dave Meggysey (featured in the movie) or the best comedian to offer insight on sports (not in the movie). The old NFL Films music causes goose bumps. The slow motion capture of hits that sent helmets flying elicits the rush of being a part of something great.
The players on the field had to have felt that same thing magnified beyond counting. The use of motivational speeches from Vince Lombardi – who coached Carpenter – shows one of the reasons why the players made the choice they did to compete at the highest level for often mediocre (by today’s standards) financial rewards. The real rationale was the glory, the accolades, and the admiration from screaming fans. Hearing thousands of people screaming for something you did must be amazing.
Leaving that under the best of circumstances would be excruciating. Exiting football with the long term effects explored in Requiem was absolutely toxic to the player and those around him. The documentary explores the most obvious causes of CTE and also focuses on the effects.
The scientists and doctors make a clear case for the genesis and progression of the condition. It is interesting and gut wrenching. That feeling goes into over drive when the film looks at the worst cases of CTE. Family members, friends, and colleagues recount episodes of what can only be called psychotic behavior. Sometimes the players themselves are interviewed in the grip of the condition.
And the hits keep coming. The NFL takes a few shots. Unlike the ones the players took, these seem to have no crippling effect. Evidence is shown that the league knew about the problems with these injuries. They knew the cause and they knew the effects. Which brings us back to the earlier quote on corporations. From what is presented, it was impossible for a player to knowingly make Achilles’ Choice. Moreover, not everyone who suffered got to be heroic or even remembered. To allow that to happen is horrible. To profit from it while doing everything in its corporate power to avoid responsibility is greedy and amoral.
This film is made by a plaintiff who sued the NFL. There is an obvious ax to grind. Moreover, her father, her hero, and her role model, was damaged by his virtues of dedication, discipline and perseverance. A bigger than life man who was admired by almost all who knew him had psychotic episodes that damaged her and her family. There is a natural instinct to seek excuses for the bad acts of the ones we love. In this case it wasn’t an excuse, but a diagnosis. Hopefully that made it easier for her to reconcile with her dad.
I can’t call this enjoyable, but it is definitely worth seeing. There were a few things I thought the film should included or expanded on. The sections of the film on Dave Duerson and Junior Seau needed a little fleshing out. Things like steroids, alcohol and drug abuse needed to be addressed as either contributing factors or non factors. Finally, the film needed to address the players who have CTE but have not manifested the extreme symptoms of the main subjects. It would be interesting to see if they escaped those effects from early intervention, treatment or by winning the genetic lottery.
If you are a parent thinking about putting your kid in a helmet and pads, go see it. If you love the game of football, go see it. If you haven’t wept in a football movie since Brian’s Song, go see it.
REQUIEM FOR A RUNNING BACK
BY GEORGIANA E. PRESECKY
Director Rebecca Carpenter pays tribute to her late father, former NFL player Lewis Carpenter, in the informative, emotional and timely documentary Requiem for a Running Back. After his family donated his brain to a Boston University study, they discovered that Carpenter suffered from a degenerative brain disease that caused erratic behavior they couldn’t explain before. Reminiscent of a well-produced episode of 30 For 30, Requiem for a Running Back is an intriguing scientific study balanced with a moving tribute to a husband, father and athlete. (GEP: 4.5/5)
Lew Carpenter spent 10 seasons in the National Football League as a player and several more as a coach. His daughter Rebecca credits the NFL for teaching her family “commitment, pride and sacrifice.” But she discovers over the course of the documentary that it robbed them of much more.
The film provides a clear explanation of his posthumous diagnosis: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which subtly but progressively affects the brain and its function, especially in athletes. What was perceived as behavioral changes were actually symptoms of a serious brain injury caused by more than a decade of playing football.
Carpenter’s excellent interview subjects provide the foundation for the film, from doctors to players to outspoken critics of football culture. But it’s her discussions with other retired NFL players impacted by CTE that are especially heartbreaking and painful to witness. These men are people with families who must deal with the aftershocks of their playing days long after retirement. Former player John Hilton suffers from dementia and struggles to find the words for Carpenter’s questions, and it reduced me to tears. Other players committed suicide or suffered in silence.
Moments like these, juxtaposed with scientific evidence and personal anecdotes, are what makes this film especially poignant. It’s both educational and heartbreaking, carefully balancing a brief history of football, the progression of a difficult disease, and the impact of one man’s life.
Neurological explanations for severe brain injuries caused by repeated blows to the head will make you think about your Sunday afternoon a little differently. But so will Carpenter’s story; it gave me a whole new respect for the men and lives beneath the jerseys whose colors we wear so proudly as sports fans. And it made me think even more deeply about an ever-evolving American truth: that this game doesn’t quite seem worth it.
But what makes Requiem for a Running Back special is Lew. Rebecca sees her father through the eyes of other family members, former teammates and friends. His family rediscovering his life and journey through the lens of this disease is beautiful to witness and will be especially resonant for fathers and daughters. She asks early on, “How do I use his life to make some meaning? To make it worth something?” I’d say Carpenter has done that and more with this important, fascinating film.
Requiem for a Running Back: CTE is a Family’s Nightmare
BY DANIELLE SOLZMAN
Requiem for a Running Back depicts the horrors that families and former NFL players go through as a result of concussions.
To say that this documentary is the NFL’s nightmare would be an understatement. It’s a horror story come to life and what that hits even harder than the 2015 Bennet Omalu biopic, Concussion, starring Will Smith. Any parent thinking of letting their children play football will think twice after watching either of these films because of the seriousness that is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative neurocognitive disorder.
Lewis Carpenter had played for the legendary Hall of Fame football coach, Vince Lombardi, on the Green Bay Packers. It turns out that the brain bank at Boston University wanted to study his brain following his death. This led to some shocking results for the family: he had CTE and didn’t even know it. With the announcement, he became the 18th player to get a postmortem diagnosis.
This film is directed by Lewis’s daughter, Rebecca Carpenter, and it comes off as a very personal project for her. Are there home videos? Sure, there are. However, this is more than just home videos of a random football player. This is a daughter wanting to know how and why this happened. It led to a three-year journey that took her across the country in search of answers.
What does CTE do? It can lead to depression, obsession, being forgetful, and a uncontrollable temper. Family members suffer because of this and it’s even worse when nobody knows what the repeated concussions and blows to the head do over an NFL career.
Those interviewed in Requiem for a Running Back include former teammates, rival players, scientists, historians, and other families who were affected by having a loved one diagnosed with CTE. Among the doctors included are the aforementioned Dr. Bennet Omalu and Evanston-based neurologist Dr. Julian Baile. Carpenter spoke to former players diagnosed with CTE and their families: Mike Pyle (Chicago Bears), Ray Easterling (Atlanta Falcons), John Hilton (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Greg Lens (Atlanta Falcons
Chris Borland is among those interviewed and he retired from the NFL before he even turned 30 years old! If his retirement doesn’t essentially say that playing football is scary, something must be off. His retirement should be seen as a warning for not only the NFL but any parent thinking of having their children play football.
Carpenter should not have gone through this battle alone. While it’s great to see that people are speaking out, nobody should be shamed for doing so. One of the CTE side effects is dementia and nobody wants to see their family members go through that.
On a personal note, CTE is one of the factors into why I made the decision to stop watching the NFL. It took way too long for the NFL to take concussions seriously and even now, some teams are still bringing players back too soon.
Hydro Studios opened the touching and hard-hitting Requiem for a Running Back in New York and Chicago (Gene Siskel Film Center) on November 10, 2017. After this week, there will be more theatrical runs and one-night screenings announced.
November 8, 2017
BY LOUIS PROYECT
In choosing the title “Requiem for a Running Back” for her profoundly moving documentary about football and CTE, director Rebecca Carpenter, the daughter of its subject Lew Carpenter, might have had the 1956 teleplay by Rod Serling in mind. Serling’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight” starred Jack Palance as the boxer Harlan “Mountain” McClintock, who is at the end of his career and already showing signs of dementia pugilistica or “punch drunk syndrome”. In telling the story of her father, who was a halfback with the Green Bay Packers and other teams from 1953 to 1963, she conveys the same kind of dramatic intensity Serling brought to his teleplay. As is so often the case, the truth of a documentary reaches heights that no fiction can reach. The film, which opens on Friday at the Cinema Village in New York and the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, now has the inside track for my pick as best documentary of 2017.
Jack Palance played Harlan “Mountain” McClintock, someone for whom boxing was all he ever knew and terrified of trying something new—so much so that he signed up for a fight even though doctors warned that it might kill him. After Lew Carpenter’s football career came to an end, he started a new career as a coach under Vince Lombardi who he idolized. As he approached middle age, Carpenter began to exhibit the traits that all CTE sufferers display: loss of memory, depression, fits of anger, and intellectual deficits. But when he was coaching, they were kept under control. It was only when he could no longer coach that they escalated radically to the point of breaking up his marriage and creating a deep estrangement with his daughters, one of whom was Rebecca Carpenter destined to graduate from Harvard University and begin a career in television, film, and education. With a mission to discover who her father was through interviews with former players who knew him probably better than she did—his surrogate sons—and her obvious grasp of the art of the documentary, she has made a film for the ages.
Lew Carpenter was born in 1932 to dirt poor farmers from Hayti, Missouri but grew up in nearby West Memphis, Arkansas. He understood that unless he made a career in football, he’d end up chopping cotton like his parents who lived in a shack. After starring on the University of Arkansas team, he began his career with the Detroit Lions and then moved on to the Green Bay Packers. Despite the director’s obvious aim in putting football out of business, she has made a point of communicating what makes the game so fulfilling for those who play it, including Green Bay Packer wide receiver James Lofton who was coached by Lew Carpenter. Lofton makes clear that even though both Lombardi and Carpenter could be as mean and even as degrading as a drill instructor, he and his teammates looked at them worshipfully because they helped them excel. He describes professional football as a place where ethnicity and class make little difference because the sport is only interested in what you can bring to the game. In fact, the same thing can be said about the military.
Carpenter also interviews a number of medical researchers who testify as to the indifference of the owners about the health of the men who toil for them. When Houston Texans owner Robert McNair described the protests of men like Colin Kaepernick as “inmates running the prison”, he blurted out what has been true for a very long time. In one eye-opening interview with attorney Ed Garvey, who represented the players in a number of confrontations much sharper than that going no now, we learn that they insisted on using AstroTurf even though it risked injury to the brain. At one point, an owner growing tired of Garvey’s advocacy warned him that for only a $100 he can find someone to stuff his corpse into a trunk.
In keeping with the most recent research on CTE, Carpenter reveals that some experts do not regard concussion as its cause. It happens that although Lew Carpenter endured the usual number of collisions on the field over a 10-year career, he had never suffered from repeated concussions. It is entirely possible that he was a victim of “brain slosh”, a term used by some medical researchers to describe the effect of having a brain floating normally in cerebrospinal fluid and not connected to the skull being hurled against it when a player is tackled. No helmet can prevent this. Furthermore, it is also possible that it is only exposure to “minor” hits during a career in football can be the culprit. That is why some analysts are predicting the demise of the game.
In one of the more jaw-dropping interviews in Carpenter’s film, we hear Mike Ditka state that if he had a son, he would not allow him to play football—the very same Mike Ditka who was once described by Mike Duerson as a coach who never “gave a damn about the players or their injuries when he was coaching.” Although it is understandable why Carpenter would find Ditka’s renunciation of football worth filming, it must be said that the grizzled icon of brutality on the football field has not seen fit to defend Colin Kaepernick’s protest as Dave Zirin pointed out in a Nation Magazine article:
Ditka is the guy who berated his own Bears players for not crossing a picket line when the NFLPA was on strike in 1987. He’s the guy today who—after a lifetime of supporting right-wing candidates—shills for another dubious product: Donald Trump.
And now, true to form, he’s coming out against Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests. On Friday, he said on the Shan & RJ radio show, “I think it’s a problem. Anybody who disrespects this country and the flag. If they don’t like the country they don’t like our flag, get the hell out. My choice is, I like this country, I respect our flag, and I don’t see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on,” Ditka said. “I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunity. Now, if they don’t want to look for them then you can find problems with anything, but this is the land of opportunity because you can be anything you want to be if you work. If you don’t work, that’s a different problem.”
Eventually, professional football players will connect the dots between the racism of a Robert McNair and the continuing efforts of the owners to shortchange the former players who are in desperate need of support as they wrestle with the onset of early dementia and the other demons CTE submits them to.