Vice President Mike Pence said he left an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers early on Sunday 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 angst for President Donald Trump in recent weeks.
Some people, however, were not convinced, and quickly suggested the vice president pulled a stunt at the behest of Trump. The president seemed to confirm as much in a tweet shortly after Pence announced that he walked out:
Speculation that Pence’s protest was pre-planned grew after it was revealed that he flew from Las Vegas to Indianapolis for the game, only to fly back west to Los Angeles on Sunday. Members of the press pool travelling 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.
The news outlet also noted some inconsistencies surrounding Pence’s tweets about Sunday’s game. At 8:27 a.m., Pence tweeted a picture of himself dressed in a Colts-branded polo shirt and hat along with Karen, saying “Looking forward to cheering for our @Colts & honouring 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.
At 10:42 a.m., Pence tweeted another picture, this time of himself dressed in a suit jacket and button-up shirt standing for the anthem. An Associated Press photo showed Pence in the same outfit, giving a thumbs-up to the crowd.
Outrage only grew in the hours following Pence’s walkout, with some observers criticising the administration for the taxpayer money spent on Pence’s travels, ostensibly for the purpose of what some are calling a publicity stunt.
A handful of NFL players have chosen to kneel or sit down during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice and police brutality. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick initiated the protest during the 2016 season.
Mike Pence tweeted the same picture from a Colts game that he tweeted in 2014 https://t.co/V9UuJikRPy
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