Pence walks out of NFL game over national anthem protest
US Vice-President Mike Pence walked out of a National Football League (NFL) game in Indiana after several players kneeled in protest for the American national anthem. Pence justified his decision, saying he can't "dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag." Kneeling at NFL games during the anthem has become a form of protest against racial injustice. Trump has frequently criticized protesting players.
Last year, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem to highlight alleged police brutality cases against black Americans. Since then, more football players have started taking a knee. Trump has condemned this form of protest, saying it's disrespectful to the American flag and military veterans. He has called for an NFL boycott and urged teams to fire protesting players.
Pence departed after players from the San Francisco 49ers didn't stand up during the national anthem prior to their game against the Indianapolis Colts. "While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don't think it's too much to ask NFL players to respect the flag," Pence said in a statement. Trump tweeted that he had asked Pence to leave if the players kneeled.
Pence decided to go for a match featuring the San Francisco 49ers, whose former quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, initiated the kneeling protests. Pence's media pool was informed that he would be making a quick departure. A hurried press statement and Trump's tweet of approval following Pence's exit indicate it was a publicity stunt. Questions were raised about how much Pence's trip to Indianapolis cost taxpayers.