Vice President Mike Pence Leaves NFL Game Saying Players Showed "Disrespect" Of Anthem, Flag
President Trump then tweeted that he had asked Pence to leave if any players knelt. (The Colts are playing the 49ers.)
Vice President Mike Pence left Sunday's game between the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts after players on the field knelt during the national anthem.
Pence tweeted that he had left the game, saying that he would not "dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem."
President Trump then tweeted that he asked Pence to leave if any players knelt, which seemed a fairly predictable outcome since it's happened at most games this fall.
A spokesperson for the Colts did not immediately return a request for comment.
Monday morning, President Trump tweeted that the vice president was "receiving great praise" for leaving the game.
Also Monday, the Colts Twitter account retweeted a statement from former Colts player Robert Mathis that read, in part, "No hidden agendas, pub stunts or politics just old fashioned Love support & respect."
Pence's decision to leave Lucas Oil Stadium adds another dimension to the ongoing saga between the NFL and Trump.
At an event for Luther Strange in Huntsville, Alabama, last month, Trump said that he thought owners would let go of players who knelt during the national anthem. During Trump's tirade, he called such a player a "son of a bitch," setting off yet another round of protests from players, and backlash from the entire NFL community, who defended the players' right to freedom of expression and panned Trump's comments as inappropriate.
Pence's office sent an expanded statement saying that "everyone is entitled to their own opinions."
"At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us," the statement reads. "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. I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem."
The vice president's office also sent a photo of the Pences during the national anthem, their hands to their hearts. His exit came after a whirlwind few days in which Pence visited Puerto Rico and St. Croix to survey hurricane damage, and Las Vegas to comfort victims of the mass shooting from a week ago.
According to President Trump's tweet Monday, Pence's visit had been "long planned." To be in Indianapolis for the game, he traveled back from the trip to the West Coast.
In a statement Monday from the Vice President's office, a spokesperson said that "if the vice president hadn't gone to Indiana for the Colts game, he would have flown back to D.C. for the evening -- which means flying directly over Indiana. Instead, he made a shorter trip to Indiana for a game that was on his schedule for several weeks."
The vice president did not take a pool reporter into the stadium, the New York Times reported, but a member of his staff did tell the reporter, Vaughn Hillyard, he might be leaving the game early.
With their protests, players on the 49ers have sought to bring attention to racial inequality and police brutality. Last year, the team's starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, started the demonstration.