INDIANAPOLIS – Twenty-three members of the 49ers apparently prompted U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to head for the exit at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
Pence tweeted on Sunday morning that he looked forward to cheering on the Indianapolis Colts and “honoring the great career” of Peyton Manning. The Colts unveiled a statue of Manning outside the stadium on Sunday. Manning was scheduled to be honored at halftime. Pence is the former governor of Indiana.
But after the playing of the national anthem, Pence reported on Twitter that he left the buiilding a protest of his own. Within minutes, he produced a statement to explain his actions:
"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. 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. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I don't think it's too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem. I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem."
No members of the Colts were seen protesting during the national anthem.
The 49ers did not have a formal team-wide protest on Sunday, but more than 20 players – active and inactive – took a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner as a peaceful protest against racial inequality.
Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick last year made it clear their intent in kneeling the national anthem was not to disrespect the flag, the national anthem or the miltary. Recently, Reid explained why he chose to kneel during the national anthem.
“Our goal is to make people uncomfortable about the issues,” Reid told NBC Sports Bay Area. “But the anthem is just a vehicle to get us to have those conversations. It’s the platform we have. It’s the only time we have to get the eyeballs on us to do that. If we just did locker-room talks afterward, nobody would even know. Strategically, this is the only way we thought we could do it.”