Vice President Mike Pence left an Indianapolis Colts game on Sunday shortly after several players on the opposing San Francisco 49ers kneeled in protest during the national anthem.
“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 wrote on Twitter on his official @VP account, hours after tweeting that he was looking forward to taking in a game with his wife, Karen Pence.
President Donald Trump later added that he personally asked the vice president and his wife to leave the game. “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The timing of Pence’s departure from Lucas Oil Stadium on his way to the West Coast and Trump’s follow-up tweet led some to suggest that the vice president’s departure was a preplanned stunt.
NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard tweeted that reporters traveling with the vice president were not even brought into the stadium with him. “As media pool has been made aware, a staffer told pool that VPOTUS may depart the game early. Did not indicate how early,” Hillyard tweeted.
It could also not have come as a surprise that a number of players chose to kneel. Some NFL players have continued to kneel during the national anthem — or make other displays of protest, such as raising their fists — since Trump said such actions were disrespectful to the flag. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners,” Trump said last month, “when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”