The Trump administration has been accused of orchestrating a “cheap political stunt” after Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game as players knelt in protest against racism and police brutality.
Pence and his wife, Karen, left the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers minutes after standing during the national anthem as several 49ers ‘took a knee’.
“While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect our Flag and our National Anthem,” Pence wrote on Twitter minutes after leaving the game in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Less than an hour later, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had asked Pence to leave the stadium if any players were kneeling as it was “disrespecting our country”.
This was almost certain to happen since the former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been the flag-bearer of the protest against police brutality and racial injustice directed towards black Americans, and his former colleagues have repeatedly followed his path.
More than a hundred NFL players from several football teams kneeled or held arms in solidarity earlier this month after Trump called NFL players who kneel during the anthem “sons of bitches.” He later insisted his criticism of the NFL had “nothing” to do with race.
It suggested the walk-out was pre-planned and not an impromptu gesture of disgust.
Commentators also pointed to how Pence appeared not to be intending to attend the whole game, with a pool reporter - who is officially assigned to cover the movements of senior White House officials - reportedly told “there my be an early exit from the game”.
Some raised questions over the cost to the taxpayer of a pre-planned “stunt”.
The Vice President flew to Indianapolis from Las Vegas, where he visited the victims and families of last week’s horrific shooting. He is now flying back West for a stop in California.