Alwaght- US Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a National Football League game on Sunday in his home state of Indiana after some players knelt during the national anthem, a form of demonstration that began last year as a symbolic protest about police violence against racial minorities.
Pence was attending a game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. Some players from the 49ers kneeled during the Star Spangled Banner, while some Colts wore black T-shirts with the words “We Will” on the front and “Stand for equality, justice, unity, respect, dialogue, opportunity” on the back. The players stood with their arms locked during the anthem, according to media reports.
“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,” Pence said in a statement issued by the White House.
President Donald Trump has criticized players sharply for the protests and pressed the NFL to ban them. He said in a tweet on Sunday that he asked Pence to leave the stadium “if any player kneeled, disrespecting our country.” He said he was proud of Pence and his wife, Karen.
The right to participate in such a protest is protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Several days ago after Trump insisted that the NFL should fire players who kneel, several athletes and officials fired back defending their rights to free speech. Hundreds of NFL players have knelt or linked arms during the national anthem over the last two weeks, inciting further outrage from the US president as well as people who argue that the move is disrespectful to military veterans and the American flag.
The protest movement started last year when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand during the anthem in preseason.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he said at the time.
Since then, players in many teams have joined the protest in an effort to draw attention to racial injustice in the US, which has deteriorated under Trump.