Pence triggered by National Anthem protest, retreats to safe space

Frederick Owens
October 9, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game after players took part in an act of demonstration during the national anthem, leading critics to call the move an orchestrated stunt in order to galvanize anti-black supporters of Donald Trump.

On his Twitter account, Pence said neither he nor Trump will "dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem".

NFL players who have demonstrated during the national anthem over the past year have said they are protesting police brutality and racism, not the flag or the anthem itself.

More than 20 players on the 49ers kneeled during the anthem with their hands over their hearts, ESPN reported. On Sunday, the Colts linked arms during the anthem, while at least 23 members of the 49ers took a knee during the anthem.

Trump said in a tweet that he had asked Pence to leave the stadium if any players kneeled during the national anthem, claiming such actions were disrespectful.

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The pool reporter with the vice president had been told to stay outside the stadium and that Pence may leave the game early. Many players, owners and even the NFL's commissioner chastised Trump for his comments. "Go Colts!" Pence tweeted. He did not specify whether it was Colts players kneeling or Niners players kneeling. He said he was there to honor Peyton Manning, the longtime Colts quarterback whose statue was unveiled in Indianapolis this weekend, and who was set to have his number retired into the team's ring of honor at halftime.

It was announced Friday that Pence would attend the game with the second lady. We spoke at length about numerous issues that face our community, including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system.

The statement by the president and the subsequent Twitter storm he unleashed, renewed a national debate over players' first amendment rights.

Elsewhere in the National Football League, many teams opted not to continue the protests.

Kaepernick, meanwhile, remains unsigned after opting out of his long-term contract in March, though it was widely believed he was simply beating the team to the punch, as they were expected to release him. Last season, the quarterback became a lightning rod for praise and criticism when he announced he would sit, then kneel, during the anthem.

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