This past Sunday October 8, Vice President Mike Pence left an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after players took a knee during the national anthem prior to the game’s start. After his exit, Pence sent two tweets saying “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” and “I stand with @POTUS Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.”
Prior to the game, the media and journalists that were accompanying the Vice President were not allowed in the stadium and were told to stay in their vans after being told by a staffer of the Vice President that “there maybe an early departure from the game,” possibly indicating that this walkout was planned prior to Sunday. After Pence’s departure, President Trump tweeted that he asked the Vice President to leave, saying, “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.”
The Vice President’s exit from the game has drawn broad and harsh backlash from liberal politicians and ordinary civilians. Hawaii Democratic Senator Brian Schatz responded, saying, “Wait. This was orchestrated to make a point? That’s not an inexpensive thing to do.” San Francisco 49ers Safety Eric Reid, who participated in the kneeling, thought that Pence’s walkout was planned, saying, “This was PR.” Former Michigan Democratic Congressman John Dingell tweeted, “Cool national anthem protest, @VP. Shame nobody else is allowed to do that.”
A spokesman for the NFL said that the league had no comment on the Pence’s exit, which comes as more and more players around the NFL have been kneeling to show unity in fighting for racial justice, and against hate and violence. Trump has repeatedly called for the NFL to punish players who continue kneel and has even called for a boycott of the NFL until the league takes action.