DALLAS – The controversy over President Donald Trump’s tweets and criticism of athletes who take a knee or engage in acts of protest during the national anthem has created a social media firestorm. Debates, on all sides, over personal freedoms and patriotism are happening across the country.
Athletes at the Adaptive Training Foundation (ATF) gym in North Texas are familiar with the controversy and debates. Many of the members and staff are veterans. Some of them living with injuries from combat.
Blake Watson works with ATF. The former Marine moves around the gym in a wheel chair mostly, these days. Watson says he was serving in Afghanistan when he lost his leg during an explosion in December 2010.
Watson explained, “I took a step out of the way and took a knee. The knee actually hit the pressure plate and ignited an explosion right behind me."
The military connections at ATF are strong. As are some of the veterans’ thoughts about the politics over athletes taking a knee during the national anthem and the President’s tweets condemning those athletes who do.
Watson said, "As a veteran, I don't appreciate that they take that specific moment as a time to show disapproval with what is going on, you know the social justices."
Watson explained he supports athletes’ rights to speak out. He just questions the timing during the game.
“I did take an oath to protect this country,” Watson said. “This country is based on certain freedoms and rights that people have. For me to try to tell someone that what they are doing is not right, and what I believe is right, that's not what this country was founded on. That's not what I fought for. So, it's not my place to tell someone when they should or should not stand for the national anthem."
The hashtag #TakeAKnee has been trending across social media all weekend. In additions to the president’s tweets, U.S. Congressman and civil rights activist, John Lewis, also went on social media. He tweeted, “Young people kneeling today are following a long tradition.” He added, “There is nothing wrong with kneeling down to stand up against injustice.”
Adaptive Training Foundation’s owner and former NFL linebacker, David Vobora, says the controversy has been a hot topic between his friends, both active and retired players.
"I will always say this, America is only going to be as great as our standard is for it,” Vobora explained. “We just have to take a good look at what our standards are, as a whole, and then not be so repulsed at the other person's opinion."