Out Of Bounds: NFL Protests During The National Anthem
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
NFL owners and players met last week. And the topic on everyone's minds...
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The big headline from this morning's meeting is that there is no deal between players and owners over these ongoing national anthem protests.
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RICHARD SHERMAN: We will not be bullied by the president of the United States and his words. And we will not be divided by those words.
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ROGER GOODELL: We want our players to stand. We're going to continue to encourage them to stand. And we're going to continue to work on these issues in the community.
BLOCK: This week on Out Of Bounds, protests and the NFL. We're going to hear one perspective now from a former NFL linebacker David Vobora who played with the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks. He's the founder of the Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas, which works with severely injured athletes and veterans - amputees, quadriplegics - working on their physical and mental strength. David Vobora, welcome to the program.
DAVID VOBORA: Thanks for having me.
BLOCK: What are you hearing, David, when you talk with other NFL players about these protests, taking the knee during the national anthem?
VOBORA: Yeah, I think there's a wide spectrum. There's some, you know, like me that come from military families and understand that flag meant something specific to veterans and the sacrifice and the freedoms for this country. You know, one of my former teammates - I talked with him. And he grew up in New Orleans in a very low, very impoverished area. And that flag to him kind of - it was always the oppression. It was the local police law enforcement keeping them in a certain area so that they didn't feel like they had the same types of freedoms. And so I can understand where he would come from to say that that flag is a symbol that represents something totally different.
BLOCK: When you talk to the veterans that you're working with in your gym in your training center, are you hearing a range of views there, or is it pretty much of peace?
VOBORA: No, initially, it was, you know, I'll never watch another NFL game. I'm burning my NFL gear. And with that, I think some of that smoke had to settle. And they still may be against the action of kneeling for that anthem and in front of that flag, but they did acknowledge that that is a right that they went into harm's way to protect and to preserve. And so that's why it stings for them in a personal sense. And it even did for me. But then as you peel back those layers and you recognize that they're not pointing against any veterans or against the military - they're actually trying to just make a stance, which has worked - and you have to acknowledge it has worked - so that they can be respected for their own beliefs.
BLOCK: After the meeting between the owners and the players this past week, the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came out and he said, look. The league will not actually force players to stand, which had been hinted at. But he did say he wants to see the NFL stay out of politics. There's another argument, of course, which is that athletes have a very powerful platform and are well within their rights to use that platform to express their views. What do you think about that?
VOBORA: I think that people are going to be able to speak whatever it is about politics, just the same freedom of speech that they can around other issues. You know, I've heard a lot of players, right? - that either have said, look. I don't care what - if I lose fans. Here's what I believe. And that's their choice.
BLOCK: That's former NFL linebacker David Vobora. He works with athletes and veterans at his Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas. David, thanks very much.
VOBORA: Thank you.
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