INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Vice President Mike Pence decided to leave the Indianapolis Colts game Sunday because about two dozen 49ers players knelt during the national anthem.
In a tweet, the former Indiana governor said “I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.” Minutes after that tweet, his office released a full statement:
“I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem. 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. 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.”
“I’m so sick and tired of them saying the protest is disrespectful to the flag and our veterans,” said Colts fan Alexandria Frazier. “Don’t speak for us.”
Frazier says with her sixth year in the Army National Guard coming up, she’s furious that his statement implies the NFL players’ protests “disrespects our soldiers”.
“Why do you sit there and assume that the veterans are so offended by it?” wondered Frazier. “Why can’t you just hear and understand what the protest is about and understand it’s for equality?”
Steven Potter says he’s a veteran too.
He agrees that soldiers aren’t a homogeneous group and that they all have different views on the protest and Pence’s response. The California native and 49ers fan says he agrees it’s the players’ right to kneel, but would prefer they protest in other ways.
Similarly, he thinks Pence was right to leave if that’s what he felt was necessary.
“I mean I think his position, what he did, injects more politics into it,” said Potter. “They [players] have every right to do that. He has every right to leave.”
Shortly after Pence released a statement, President Donald Trump tweeted saying that he asked Pence to leave the stadium if any players knelt during the anthem.
For 49ers Player Eric Reid, the first to join Colin Kaepernick in taking a knee, this tweet, plus Pence’s lack of attendance at other Colts games, made him feel the decision to leave was a publicity move.
“With the information that I have, the last time he’s been to a Colts game was three years ago,” said Reid. “So this looks like a PR stunt to me. He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew that we were probably going to do it again.”
But a senior administration official says although Pence was prepared to leave, he was “hopeful” all players would stand. While all Colts players did, the 49ers didn’t.
It was announced Friday that Pence would attend the game with the second lady. The game was special, because Peyton Manning’s jersey was retired at halftime and he was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.
Before the game, Pence tweeted that he was looking forward to honoring “the great career of #18 Peyton Manning.”
Pence was not there for the jersey retirement during halftime, but his officials say he did meet with Manning before the game. They declined to share the details of that conversation.