Vice President Mike Pence had been set to attend the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts 1pm game vs. the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday to honor Peyton Manning’s jersey number being retired, but he walked out of the stadium as nearly two dozen 49ers players knelt before the anthem.
What’s especially concerning is that the protests have happened each week without fail, so Pence must have known it was going to happen, making his walkout a publicity stunt at taxpayer expense.
The players, inspired by former teammate Colin Kaepernick, were taking part in the league-wide kneeling protests against inequality and police brutality when Pence left the stadium. Pence said he left because the players were disrespecting the flag and American soldiers — which the players have repeatedly said they are not doing.
“I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence tweeted.
— Vice President Pence (@VP) October 8, 2017
As observers on social media have pointed out, Pence’s security presence for the game was taxpayer-funded, and he wasted that money by walking out (and perhaps disrespecting the anthem in his own right) before the game even started. One can imagine Pence himself didn’t pay for his admission himself either, meaning that that expense is also likely to be billed to the American people.
49ers have been protesting for over a year. This was calculated. https://t.co/KlXsONVATL
— Melissa Jacobs (@thefootballgirl) October 8, 2017
How many tax dollars went to security at the Colts game today so Mike Pence could walk out when players did what he knew they'd do?
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) October 8, 2017
Just out of curiosity did you pay for the ticket? And how much did it cost us to protect you during the game for this publicity stunt?
— Cliff Moskowitz (@CLIFFMOSKOWITZ) October 8, 2017
So he got up and left during the national anthem? How disrespectful
— Cleetus (@Timetomakethed2) October 8, 2017
During a campaign-style rally in Alabama last month, President Donald Trump had urged football fans to leave the stadium if they saw players protesting inequality by kneeling for the national anthem. He also said any “son of a bitch” player who knelt in protest should be “fired” by the team owners.
But players and entire teams across the league have defied Trump’s divisive remarks, with high profile white players even announcing their support for the protesting players and disagreeing with the White House that their actions are somehow unpatriotic.
“Beauty is, it’s a free country so they can choose to do it or not. The messaging towards this unfortunately needs to continue to be redirected, I think. It’s never been about the national anthem. It’s never been about the military,” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had said.
“We’re all patriotic in the locker room. We love our troops. This is about something bigger than that — an invitation to show unity in the face of some divineness from the top in this country and I’m proud of our guys.”