After Vice President Mike Pence’s pre-planned, premature walkout from the Indianapolis Colts’ overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers, President Trump tweeted that the veep’s actions had received “great praise.” However, it’s fair to say that those words of praise were not unanimous, with numerous tweets and articles pointing out that Pence had spent $250,000 of taxpayers’ money for what amounted to a publicity stunt. Pence’s actions have been further criticised by 49ers’ safety Eric Reid who, while inactive through injury, joined the 49ers continuing kneeling protest Sunday — and then gave his opinion to reporters post-game.
Reid’s words, as reported by Bleacher Report, left the audience in no doubt of his opinions on Pence’s actions.
“My honest reaction – does anybody know the last time he’s been to a football game?… he tweeted out a 3-year-old photo of him at a Colts game, so with the information I have, the last time he was at a Colts game was three years ago.”
Reid went on to point out that the 49ers, whose former quarterback Colin Kaepernick set in motion the kneeling protest in response to unpunished killings of young black men by police officers, are known to have the highest proportion of protesting players. It couldn’t have come as a surprise to the vice president that some 49ers players would again kneel this weekend.
As it emerged, Pence’s actions came on the orders of the president, falling after a scheduled appearance to mark last Sunday’s tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, and before a campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles that ensured he could never have stayed to watch the whole game. Despite a tweet sent before kickoff (accompanied by that 3-year-old photo), which implied the veep was there to honor Peyton Manning, Pence made himself scarce long before the halftime ceremony in which the legendary Colts passer’s No. 18 jersey was retired, in one fell swoop making the story about Pence and ensuring that Manning was bumped from the front pages.
So what was the purpose of Pence’s abortive visit to his erstwhile home state? Eric Reid has his views, certainly.
“This is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple of things out, and leave the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts.”
In that much, it’s hard to disagree with Reid. While Pence, and indeed Trump, have paid some lip service to people’s right to make a peaceful protest, the sitting administration’s focus on the kneeling players has made any such statements look tokenistic at best. NFL owners, including Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys (who according to Fox News says that players must stand for the anthem or sit for the game) and Stephen Ross of the Miami Dolphins, have now made it clear that they want to see all of their players stand for the national anthem. Reid also repeated the message that pre-game protests are not designed to dishonor the flag or the president, stating that a system of oppression was in place that “didn’t happen overnight” and wouldn’t be fixed overnight.
One thing is for sure: The vice president could follow the 49ers around the country for the remainder of their schedule, walking out the moment he sees a player kneeling, and it won’t stop those players protesting. The players know his and the administration’s views on the protests and vice versa.
[Featured Image by Brian Bahr/Getty Images]