Pence walks out on NFL game as protests press on
WASHINGTON: United States Vice-President Mike Pence walked out of a National Football League (NFL) game on Sunday after some players knelt during the national anthem, a form of silent protest against police violence towards racial minorities.
Mr Pence was at a game in his home state of Indiana between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers.
When the anthem was played before the start of the game, some 49ers knelt while some Colts, their arms locked, wore black T-shirts with the words "We Will" on the front and "Stand for equality, justice, unity, respect, dialogue, opportunity" on the back.
In a statement issued by the White House, Mr Pence said: "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."
The NFL Players Association defended the players' right to protest.
"We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects," it said, adding, in words borrowed from the national anthem, "that is what makes us the land of the free and the home of the brave".
Critics questioned if Mr Pence had only attended the game only to make a production of leaving.
San Francisco player Eric Reid called Mr Pence's walkout a publicity stunt.
"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.
"He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew we were probably going to do it again.
"So this is what systemic oppression looks like - a man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple things and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts." - AFP, REUTERS