Vice President Mike Pence abruptly departed the Indianapolis Colts game on Sunday, in protest over players who apparently took a knee during the playing of the national anthem, and apparently at the explicit request of President Donald Trump.
The former Indiana governor left a contest where the Colts were facing off against the San Francisco 49ers — the former team of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the player whose on-field protest sparked a mass movement among other players.
In a statement issued shortly after his departure, Pence said that he refused to "dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem."
Echoing Trump, whose words fueled a firestorm of on-field displays of defiance among NFL players two weeks ago, Pence added that "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."
I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.
It was not the first time Pence found himself caught in the middle of a show of defiance at an entertainment venue. Shortly after the 2016 general election, the cast of the Broadway play "Hamilton" publicly addressed the Vice President-elect, who was in the audience, in an unscripted message. Pence later said that he wasn't offended by the display.
"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 said on Sunday.
"I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our flag and our national anthem," he added.
Meanwhile, Kaepernick is still in pursuit of a team in the NFL willing to take him on.