Buffalo Bills players kneel during the American National anthem before an NFL game against the Denver Broncos on September 24, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York.
Vice President Mike Pence abruptly departed the Indianapolis Colts game on Sunday, in protest over players who apparently took a knee during the playing of the national anthem, and apparently at the explicit request of President Donald Trump.
The former Indiana governor left a contest where the Colts were facing off against the San Francisco 49ers — the former team of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the player whose on-field protest sparked a mass movement among other players.
In a statement issued shortly after his departure, Pence said that he refused to “dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem.”
Echoing Trump, whose words fueled a firestorm of on-field displays of defiance among NFL players two weeks ago, Pence added that “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.”
I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.
It was not the first time Pence found himself caught in the middle of a show of defiance at an entertainment venue. Shortly after the 2016 general election, the cast of the Broadway play “Hamilton” publicly addressed the Vice President-elect, who was in the audience, in an unscripted message. Pence later said that he wasn’t offended by the display.
“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,” Pence said on Sunday.
“I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our flag and our national anthem,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kaepernick is still in pursuit of a team in the NFL willing to take him on.