Vice President Mike Pence made a special trip to watch Sunday’s NFL game in his home state against the 49ers. But shortly after kickoff, Pence and his wife Karen abruptly left the stadium in a tizzy because the 49ers players had kneeled during the national anthem.
As Deadspin reported, Pence quickly took to Twitter to express his patriotic outrage at the players’ silent protest against racial discrimination and police brutality (and President Trump’s past racist comments about it).
Here is the “before” tweet:
And here is what Pence said later:
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Then, over an hour later, President Trump took credit for the entire incident, claiming that he had asked his vice president to leave the stadium.
So, which is it?
Many were angered by the vice president’s response—particularly 49ers fans and those in attendance at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, who had to endure ramped–up security at the gates before the game. As CBS Sports pointed out, 49ers players have been kneeling during the national anthem since the 2016 season, so Pence had to have known it was coming.
Even Colin Kaepernick’s mother commented on the political theatrics of it all:
But there’s more. The media pool knew that Pence would depart the game early, and according to NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard, they had been kept in vans ahead of the game instead of walking in with the vice president’s entourage.
Later, a handout photo was distributed to the media pool of Pence standing during the national anthem, presumably this one:
One more detail added to the equation: According to the vice president’s official schedule for Sunday, as reported by the Associated Press, Pence had a previously scheduled engagement at 6:30 p.m. in Los Angeles, about a four–hour flight away. It likely would have been possible for the vice president to watch the entire game, or at least the first half, and still make it to LA in time for the private reception. But it’s certainly a tight schedule.
And Pence had traveled all the way to Indianapolis from Las Vegas, where he had delivered a speech on “unity” following that city’s shooting massacre last Sunday night at a country music festival.
The optics are horrible, and this little patriotic stunt—funded by taxpayers—might come back to bite the vice president on his ass. Especially since this weekend was supposed to be all about Peyton Manning, whose number is being retired.