Vice President Mike Pence left an NFL game Sunday after several players took a knee during the national anthem as part of a broad protest against racial injustice and police brutality.
Shortly after several San Francisco 49ers players knelt during their game against the Indianapolis Colts, Pence announced he had left the game.
“I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence said in a statement.
“While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our national anthem,” he added. “I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our flag and our national anthem.”
President Donald Trump almost immediately took credit for the walk out.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017
Pence’s decision to leave Sunday’s game came several weeks after Trump called for NFL owners to fire players who knelt during the national anthem.
The comments sparked swift backlash from some players, coaches, and owners, many of whom have continued to kneel during the anthem. Other teams have linked arms in solidarity during the anthem, while teams like the San Francisco 49ers – whose former quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the protest last year – have knelt and placed their hands over their hearts during the anthem.
Before Sunday’s game, at least 23 49ers players took a knee, while the Colts linked arms.
After an initial wave of protest following Trump’s comments, many players have stopped kneeling during the anthem.