- White House
Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday said he left an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers early because some of the players knelt during the national anthem.
“I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence said in a statement, reviving what has been a subject of focus for President Donald Trump in recent weeks.
Some observers, however, quickly criticized the vice president’s action as a stunt planned at the behest of Trump. The president seemed to confirm as much in a tweet shortly after Pence announced that he walked out:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017
Pence, the former Indiana governor, flew to Indianapolis from Las Vegas for the game, only to fly back west to Los Angeles later Sunday. He surely would have known that at least some players would kneel before he made the trip, as it was a 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who last year became the first to do so as a way of protesting racial inequality and police brutality. With Kaepernick lacking a team this season, only a handful of players had continued the protest, though it gained new fervor a few weeks ago when Trump began drawing attention to it. Members of the press pool traveling with Pence in Indiana were reportedly told to wait in vans because Pence might leave the game early.
The Indianapolis Star also noted the swiftness with which the White House amplified Pence’s walkout, complete with an official press release and a photo of Pence standing with his wife, Karen, hands over their hearts, during the national anthem.
Outrage only grew in the hours following Pence’s walkout, with some observers criticizing the administration for the taxpayer money spent on travel for the apparent publicity stunt.
The Indianapolis Star noted that Pence had earlier included an old photo in a tweet about Sunday’s game. At 8:27 a.m., Pence tweeted a picture of himself dressed in a Colts-branded polo shirt and hat with his wife, saying: “Looking forward to cheering for our @Colts & honoring the great career of #18 Peyton Manning at @LucasOilStadium today. Go Colts!”
The Indianapolis Star pointed out that Pence had tweeted the same photo in November 2014, when he was governor of Indiana.
Mike Pence tweeted the same picture from a Colts game that he tweeted in 2014 https://t.co/V9UuJikRPy
RIGHT: 10/08/17 pic.twitter.com/CJIAU8lZVk
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 8, 2017
At 10:42 a.m., Pence tweeted another picture, this time of himself dressed in a suit jacket and button-up standing for the anthem. An Associated Press photo showed Pence in the same outfit, giving a thumbs-up to the crowd.