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Donald Trump says he told Mike Pence to leave stadium if players kneeled

Players have accused Vice President Mike Pence of creating a PR stunt.

Vice President Mike Pence stands during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game.
Vice President Mike Pence stands during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game.
Image: Michael Conroy via PA Images

AFTER US VICE President Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game yesterday after some players kneeled for the national anthem, Donald Trump claimed that he did so on his orders.

Pence said that he departed after seeing players kneel during a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner before his home team the Indianapolis Colts hosted the San Francisco 49ers.

“I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem,” Pence wrote on Twitter.

Later, Trump commended Pence for protesting against the footballers’ protest.

Tweet by @Donald J. Trump Source: Donald J. Trump/Twitter

While Colts players stood arm-in-arm for the anthem, more than 20 San Francisco players took a knee.

It was a less organised gesture than the 49ers’ demonstration last week, when 30 players knelt with hands on hearts while teammates stood behind them.

But it should have come as little shock to Pence, an Indiana native who had tweeted his photo in Colts cap and shirt before the game.

“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 tweeted.

“I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our flag and our national anthem.”

San Francisco safety Eric Reid, one of the first players to embrace the anthem protest after it was initiated by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year, said Pence’s walkout looked like a publicity stunt.

‘Systemic oppression’

“With the information I have, the last time he went to a Colts game was three years ago, so this looks like a PR stunt to me,” said Reid, noting that the picture Pence had tweeted of himself and his wife in Colts apparel appeared to be the same as one taken at a game three years ago.

The vice president also tweeted a picture of himself, clad in a button-down shirt and blazer, and his wife standing for the anthem yesterday.

“He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew we were probably going to do it again,” Reid said.

And so this is what systemic oppression looks like – a man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple [of] things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts.

Trump angered NFL stars, team owners and league officials last month in describing players who refused to stand for the anthem as “sons of bitches.”

His comments sparked a wave of demonstrations around the league, with many players and some team owners locking arms in a sign of unity.

The NFL Players Association issued a statement yesterday reiterating its support of players’ rights to express their views.

“We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects,” the union said.

49ers Colts Football Members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts. Source: Michael Conroy via PA Images

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also weighed in on the issue, threatening to bench players who do not stand for the anthem.

“If we are disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period,” Jones said after the Cowboys’ 35-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Dallas.

I’m very supportive of the team, but under no circumstances will the Dallas Cowboys – I don’t care what happens – under no circumstances will we as an organisation, coaches, players, not support and stand and recognise and honor the flag.

Pence, who flew to Indianapolis from Las Vegas and was scheduled to head west to Los Angeles, came in for criticism from outside the sports world for his abbreviated appearance at the game.

“After all the scandals involving unnecessarily expensive travel by cabinet secretaries, how much taxpayer money was wasted on this stunt?” Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, said in a tweet.

© AFP 2017

Read: Vice President Mike Pence walks out of NFL game after players kneel for anthem

Read: Tillerson denies he considered resigning from Trump cabinet but doesn’t say whether he called him ‘a moron’

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