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Vice President Mike Pence Turned 49ers-Colts Into a Political Stunt

The VP left the game early after protests during the national anthem, then quickly took to social media to push the administration’s position

Vice President Mike Pence Photo by Hal Yeager/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence returned to his home state of Indiana on Sunday to see his beloved Colts play the 49ers. That’s a bit strange considering Pence’s president has spent the past few weeks telling everybody who will listen that NFL fans should avoid watching or attending NFL games. But hey, the Veep loves his Colts!

That picture turned out to be from three years earlier. But Pence did show up at Sunday’s game—and he decided to call it a day rather quickly:

He had made the trip to see Colts legend Peyton Manning’s number be retired at halftime, but Pence never made it to halftime. He left after 23 San Francisco players kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the United States. (No Colts kneeled.) President Trump tweeted that he’d asked the vice president to leave if any players kneeled.

Pence easily could have foreseen the protest—the Niners did this last week, and safety Eric Reid has been doing it for more than a year. He recently wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explaining why. Perhaps Pence knew that some 49ers planned to kneel, and saw the opportunity to attend a game and leave as a chance to further the Trump administration’s position on the anthem protests. The media pool accompanying Pence was reportedly informed before the game that he might leave early, so it’s fair to wonder whether this was a planned exit rather than spur-of-the-moment outrage.

Either way, it took a lot of effort and probably a lot of money to fly Pence from Nevada to Indiana en route to California, then secure a 70,000-seat NFL stadium for a sitting vice president. In the end, all that effort and money paid for a quick departure to prove a point.

This piece was updated after publication with additional information.