Anthem kneeling: Mike Pence explains leaving NFL game, receives praise from Trump

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Mike Pence
US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the annual March for Life rally in Washington, DC, US, January 27, 2017. Reuters/ Yuri Gripas

US Vice President Mike Pence has left a National Football League (NFL) game in Indiana as some players kneeled during the national anthem, a symbolic protest about police violence against racial minorities. He was quick to explain why he did.

"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. He added it was important to rally around the flag and things that unite the country.

Pence recognised that everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but he did not thought it was too much to ask NFL players to respect the flag and the national anthem. He maintained that he stands with US President Donald Trump and with the soldiers, and will always stand for the US flag and the national anthem.

Trump praised Pence on Sunday for taking his side. In a tweet, Trump said he asked the vice president to leave the stadium if any players kneel, which for him was a sign of disrespect for America. He added that he is proud of Pence and the US second lady. Trump has criticised the players for the protests.

'Systemic oppression'

After the match, San Francisco 49ers player Eric Reid maintained that the protest was about "systemic oppression,” and said Pence was "trying to confuse the message" of the act. "This is not about the military, this is not about the flag, this is not about the anthem- this is about systemic oppression that has been rampant in this country for decades on top of decades," he said, according to ABC News. He was among the players who kneeled.

Reid added that Pence leaving the game looked like a PR stunt, as he believed the VP expected the players would do it again. Reid added that he would continue to say and encourage people to educate themselves on how they got to where they are today.

Critics object to any protest during a ceremony meant to honour the US flag and military veterans. The practice of kneeling during the anthem was started by former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. CBS reporter Jason La Canfora said on Sunday that Kaepernick would stand for the anthem if he was signed to an NFL team.

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