Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game in Indianapolis Sunday between the San Francisco 49ers and the Indianapolis Colts after several players for the 49ers took a knee during the national anthem.
Pence then issued a series of tweets explaining why he left the game, followed by an official statement released by his office.
“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,” Pence said.
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,” Pence concluded.
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Pence had been looking forward to spending time at the game, as he tweeted before his arrival there: “Looking forward to cheering for our @Colts & honoring the great career of #18 Peyton Manning at @LucasOilStadium today. Go Colts!”
President Donald Trump tweeted on the matter, saying Pence was following his suggestion.
“I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen,” Trump stated.
Trump’s son Eric Trump also took to Twitter Sunday, writing, “Vice President Pence is truly an amazing man! Thank you for standing up for our country and for the respect of our great flag! @VP.”
As the news broke concerning Pence’s high-profile exit from the football game, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters the league can’t “in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag.”
Of his own players, he said, “If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period.”
Eric Reid, a safety for the 49ers, said kneeling during the anthem is not disrespectful to the U.S. military or the flag, but is meant to tackle what he calls “systemic oppression.”
“This is not about the military,” Reid told NBC Sports Bay Area. “This is not about the flag. This is not about the anthem. My mother served in the Armed Forces. Three of my uncles served in the Armed Forces. In fact, my mom would’ve gone to the Persian Gulf War had she not been pregnant with me. I have the upmost respect for the military, the anthem and the flag. So I will say that every time you interview me.”
Reid also suggested Pence’s exit appeared to be a “PR stunt.”
“He knew our team has had the most players protest,” Reid told the station. “He knew that we were probably going to do to it again. This is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to a game, he tweets a couple things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts.”
“It’s not oppression,” responded radio host Rush Limbaugh on Monday. “Oppression? Are you kidding me? Did it stop you from what you wanted to do? No. It highlighted what you’re doing is foolish. It’s what pushback looks like, folks.”
Pence also received praise on the air from U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla.
“I think actions speak louder than words,” said Rooney.
“And I am so proud of the vice president for putting his morality, his values in play and making a physical act.”
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