CHICAGO (CBS) — Facing fierce criticism for saying “there has been no oppression in the last 100 years,” former Bears coach Mike Ditka has issued an apology, saying he’s “completely intolerant of any discrimination.”

During an interview Monday night with Jim Gray on Westwood One, Ditka weighed in on NFL players kneeling during the anthem to protest racial injustice.

“All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression,” Ditka said. “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. I think the opportunity is there for everybody; race, religion, creed, color, nationality. If you want to work, if you want to try and you want to put effort in, I think you can accomplish anything.”

Ditka’s comments prompted a social media firestorm, with both current and former NFL players slamming him as out of touch.

Hall of Fame Bears defensive end and Super Bowl XX MVP Richard Dent said he’s disappointed his former coach would say that when Ditka saw fellow teammates discriminated against by forced segregation.

Ditka has since issued an apology, claiming his words were taken out of context:

“I want to clarify statements that I made in an interview with Jim Gray last night. The characterization of the statement that I made does not reflect the context of the question that I was answering and certainly does not reflect my views throughout my lifetime. I have absolutely seen oppression in society in the last 100 years and I am completely intolerant of any discrimination. The interview was about the NFL and the related issues. That’s where my head was at. I was quoted in the interview stating, ‘You have to be color blind.’ I stated that you should look at a person for what they are and not the color of their skin. I’m sorry if anyone was offended.”

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