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Vice President Leaves NFL Game When Players Protest Racism

Vice President Mike Pence walked out on Sunday’s football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts after some of the players kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.

“I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence tweeted. President Trump wrote: “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.”

At least 15 members of the 49ers took a knee, while the Colts stood with linked arms, according to USA Today. Hundreds of National Football League players have been staging the protests since August 2016, when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem before a pre-season game. He explained that he was expressing his outrage about multiple incidences of white police officers killing unarmed black men.

Trump stoked the flames of the controversy last month when he urged team owners to fire any “son of a b****” who sits or kneels. The president also called on NFL officials to establish a policy banning the protests. His remarks apparently only encouraged the demonstrations, as more than 100 players protested the following game day. Fewer did so on Sunday.

The Guardian reported that Pence never intended to remain at Lucas Oil Stadium for the entire game. He was scheduled to take off from Indianapolis International Airport in his government plane at 4 p.m. and fly to a campaign fundraising event in Los Angeles. The game, which went into overtime, did not end until 4:30 p.m.

The vice president is not the only administration official who has backed up Trump’s condemnation of the players. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Attorney General Jeff Sessions also have spoken out against the protests. The players’ defenders, including some team owners, argue that the demonstrations are forms of free speech that the Constitution guarantees. Others believe that refusing to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” disrespects the flag, the country, military personnel, veterans and first responders, even though the players have focused solely on racism and the criminal-justice system.

Kaepernick, whose contract with the 49ers ended after last season, is still looking for a new team. Many think the league is blacklisting him because of his political views. On Sunday, CBS News reported that Kaepernick had pledged to stand for the anthem in the future. He denied the story, tweeting the Winston Churchill quote: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” While Kaepernick remains unemployed, none of the owners has granted Trump’s request to fire players who protest.

Trump’s critics are slamming him for paying so much attention to the demonstrations in the midst of the nation’s standoff with North Korea and other pressing issues. Some have accused the president of using the controversy to distract attention from the ongoing federal investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during last year’s election.

Source: USA Today, The Guardian
Photo: YouTube, Twitter

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