Donald Trump denies Mike Pence NFL walkout was a publicity stunt

President said Vice President had 'long planned' to see the game

Harriet Agerholm
Monday 09 October 2017 13:11 BST
Donald Trump denies Mike Pence NFL walkout was a publicity stunt

Donald Trump has defended Mike Pence's decision to walk out of an American football match when players protested during the national anthem.

Apparently responding to suggestions the move was staged, Mr Trump said the Vice President's trip to see the game was "long planned".

"He is receiving great praise for leaving game after the players showed such disrespect for country!" Mr Trump claimed in a Twitter post on Monday.

Around 20 members of the San Francisco 49ers knelt before their game on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

Pool reporters covering the Vice President said they were held in their vans outside the stadium, in case of an early departure.

Afterwards, San Fransisco 49s player Eric Reid told reporters the incident “look[ed] like a PR stunt”.

A number of football players have started kneeling during the national anthem in recent weeks, as a form of peaceful protest.

Former 49s player Colin Kaepernick began the practice last year, by sitting during the national anthem in protest of police brutality of black people.

Mr Trump brought renewed attention to the issue in September, when he expressed his opposition to the protest.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” the President said at a campaign rally.

The comments prompted dozens more NFL players to begin kneeling before games. Some players developed other forms of protest, such as linking arms or raising their fists during the anthem.

Mr Pence released a statement after the walkout that said: “I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem.

“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."

He added: “I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our flag and national anthem.”

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