As a new season of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” debuts on the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mike Ditka said 9/11 is a special day, and it is disrespectful of NFL players not to stand for the national anthem, but he accepts that “people are going to do what they want to do,” per TMZ.

Is Iron Mike going soft? Not really, but the old football coach seems to have at least adopted a more pragmatic approach to players who choose to join Colin Kaepernick’s protest and not stand for the anthem.

“This is a different generation of people — in other words, they think a lot of things don’t apply to them,” Ditka said.

However, he also acknowledged that people have a “right to do anything they want to do as long as they don’t break the law or hurt people.”

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Just one year ago, Ditka was more vehement in his opinion, declaring on a radio program: “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.”

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In the TMZ video, Ditka said the majority of people understand the significance of 9/11 and will stand. However, he noted, “There’s always going to be some malcontents. Let them be malcontents. Let them do their thing, and they’ll move on. Nobody will think about it. Nobody will remember who they were, the fact they didn’t stand for the national anthem.”

Ditka said he’d like to see all players stand prior to every game, not just those on 9/11, arguing that a football game is not the “time or place” for protest.

Asked what his message would be to players considering not standing for the anthem on 9/11, Ditka responded: “God Bless America.”

Mike Ditka advises a hands-off approach with any NFL players who protest before 9/11 games Jordan Strauss/Invision for NFL/AP Images