Mike Pence walks out of football game after Donald Trump told him to

The Vice President says he 'will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem'

Emily Shugerman
New York
Sunday 08 October 2017 20:41 BST
Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game on Sunday
Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game on Sunday (Hal Yeager/Getty Images)

US Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a football game in which players knelt during the national anthem, saying he “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 said in a statement, after walking out of a Indianapolis Colts vs San Francisco 49ers game in his home state of Indiana.

He added: "I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and National Anthem."

Mr Trump later took credit for the display, tweeting that he had asked his Vice President to walk out of the stadium if any players kneeled.

“I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen,” the President tweeted.

The White House said the Vice President attended the game to honour former Colts player Peyton Manning, whose number was to be retired that day.

More than 20 members of the 49s knelt before the game, according to the New York Times. Colts players wore black t-shirts reading “We Will” on the front and “Stand for equality, justice, unity, respect, dialogue, opportunity” on the back.

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

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

"Wait. This was orchestrated to make a point?" tweeted Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz. "That's not an inexpensive thing to do."

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 initiated the practise last year, by sitting out the national anthem in protest of police brutality of black people.

Mr Trump brought renewed attention to the issue last month, when he began tweeting and talking about 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 in September.

The comments caused dozens more NFL players to begin kneeling before games. Other players developed new forms of protest, such as linking arms or raising their fists during the national anthem. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell criticised Mr Trump for his comments, calling them “divisive”.

Mr Kaepernick, who was not signed last season, has reportedly started training privately at his New Jersey home, in hopes of joining up again.

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