Vice President Mike Pence made headlines Sunday afternoon for leaving an Indianapolis Colts game after more than a dozen players on the opposing team—the San Francisco 49ers—kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
While Pence implied that he left the game of his own volition, President Donald Trump tweeted an hour later that he "asked" Pence to "leave [the] stadium if any players kneeled."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017
Critics immediately slammed the entire episode as a "PR stunt," arguing Trump's tweet is clear evidence that Pence's walk-out was planned in advance. Many also called attention to the taxpayer money spent on flying Pence to Indianapolis from Las Vegas.
Well, this confirms that it was a just a manufactured bullshit outrage PR stunt. https://t.co/0Gz7IRqm0M
— Josh Katzowitz (@joshkatzowitz) October 8, 2017
There you have it. PR stunt.
Interesting choice to use Peyton Manning as a prop. https://t.co/qqo6SLF4wq
— Allan Bell, Jr. (@AllanBell247) October 8, 2017
Wish you were putting as much time into saving Puerto Rico as you are in staging stunt walk outs of NFL games. https://t.co/V9WtsbVk32
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— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) October 8, 2017
There you have confirmation. A cross-country trip for a staged publicity stunt, financed by your taxes. https://t.co/Z87RTlmq6R
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) October 8, 2017
CAN WE JUST MAKE IT THROUGH A WEEKEND WITHOUT THIS ADMINISTRATION ABUSING TAXPAYER DOLLARS WITH JET TRAVEL!? https://t.co/nBEBDwLEjv
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) October 8, 2017
As the Washington Post reports, the media pool that arrived at the Colts game with Pence were directed to stay in the van, instead of going into the stadium with the vice president.
"A staffer told the pool there was a chance Pence may depart from the game early, but did not mention how early," the Post notes.
Looks as if 15 49ers are kneeling for anthem. VP Mike Pence attending game. ... pic.twitter.com/FWtO512KFK
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) October 8, 2017