Recently, Elmhurst College announced Mike Ditka would be visiting campus as part of the Roland Quest Lecture series. With the knowledge given at the ‘Dare to Disagree’ teach-in on what free speech really is, I respect his right to come speak and welcome him to EC. However, I think of all the successful people we could invite to speak to our students, Mike Ditka is a horrible choice.
It’s no surprise that excitement surrounds his appearance on campus. The Chicagoland area has come to admire Ditka, who is considered one of the best tight end players and NFL coaches ever. These fans are overlooking a few flaws in the football star, starting with his obnoxious political banter.
According to ESPN, when speaking of the Colin Kaepernick situation in 2016, Ditka made the bold statement, “I think it’s a problem ... anybody who disrespects this country and the flag,” adding, “If they don’t like the country [and] they don’t like our flag ... get the hell out.” As a nation that holds free speech so highly and is called “the land of opportunity,” doesn’t that constitute the opportunity to disagree with our values and protest for change?
He went on to defend himself, saying, “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.”
This is just another typical case of obvious white privilege. There’s a difference in not seeing atrocities of police brutality and hate crimes and just ignoring them, Ditka.
Political oppositions aside, even the name of the lecture is laughable. “On Leading and Winning” is strewn across the poster of him plastered all across campus. Sounds reasonable from a football coach and hall-of-fame member, but we are a D3 school where chances of athletes making it big are slim.
So if he isn’t talking to players, he might be directing his words to students. However, it doesn’t take more than simple research online to find out Ditka did not graduate college. He was a few credits away before being drafted to the NFL.
So what does a college dropout have to teach students who are trying their hardest, staying up late and paying thousands of dollars in hopes they will make their career goals a reality? Very few EC students are looking for a career in athletics, so if all you know is success in sports, you don’t have much to teach us.
I can already hear people yelling about other influential people who didn’t graduate college, but the thing is, what has Ditka done for us? He is a caricature of a man disguised as a businessman. Once your name is big, business will come easy, so saying his restaurant chain and merchandise are successful is based only on the name attached. He doesn’t have anything to offer students besides a loud mouth and some football recognition.
As an advocate for free speech, I believe in welcoming Mike Ditka to our campus, but that doesn’t mean I still find this appearance to be uncredible and useless to our student body. I question his integrity to leave a positive impact on students as someone who got by on their athletic talent and nothing more.