The vice president staged his own protest at the Indianapolis Colts-San Francisco 49ers game, leaving the NFL stadium after several players knelt while the national anthem was played to protest police brutality against minorities and systemic racism.
“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,” VP Mike Pence said in a statement issued by the White House and published on his Twitter feed.
Pence claimed earlier Sunday that he was attending the game in appreciation of the long-serving Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who was being honored with a statue at the stadium and a symbolic “retirement” of his number in honor of his achievements in the sport.
However, when the Star-Spangled Banner was played, roughly 20 players knelt during the anthem in solidarity with their former teammate Colin Kaepernick.
The Colts engaged in their own form of protest, sporting black t-shirts which read “We will,” on the front and, “Stand for equality, justice, unity, respect, dialogue, opportunity,” on the back.
At approximately 1:08pm local time, moments after the conclusion of the national anthem, Pence tweeted that he had left the game as a result of the protests, saying he refused to “dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”
Shortly thereafter, Pence tweeted a picture of his wife and himself standing beside a member of the military (an image which he subsequently used as his cover photo on his profile).
President Trump took to Twitter to confirm that Pence had left the game at his request.
Reaction online was swift, with many highlighting the hypocrisy of Pence’s own protest while others alleged the whole thing was another example of the Trump administration’s publicity stunts designed to polarize public opinion or distract Americans from other issues.