WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Vice-President Mike Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game Sunday (Oct 8) when some players kneeled for the national anthem, stoking controversy over the gesture.
In the third NFL (National Football League) weekend since US President Donald Trump said league owners should fire players who kneel during pre-game playings of the US national anthem, Pence tweeted that he departed after seeing players kneel during "The Star-Spangled Banner".
"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 wrote on Twitter.
While Colts players stood arm-in-arm at their home game in Indianapolis, more than 20 of the 49ers players knelt during the song as they have for weeks, a move that should have been little shock to Pence, an Indiana native who tweeted his photo in Colts cap and shirt before the game.
"While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don't think it's too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem," Pence tweeted. "I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem."
Trump took credit for the departure of Pence and his wife from the stadium in a later tweet, saying, "I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen."
As White House criticism of of the gesture continued Sunday, CBS walked back its report that Colin Kaepernick, the player who first employed it last year, had said he would stand for the anthem if he was signed by a new team.
Reporter Jason La Canfora said he had not, in fact, discussed the matter with Kaepernick in his off-camera interview.
"Colin would have to address any future demonstrations," La Canfora tweeted. "I didn't ask him if he would sit or stand. Our chat primarily about his will to play." Kaepernick, who said last year he hoped to spark a discussion about racism when he opted not to stand for the anthem, re-tweeted La Canfora's tweets rolling back the story.
Kaepernick added another telling tweet quoting Winston Churchill: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." Kaepernick was dropped by the 49ers in March and many feel his failure to find a new team is related to his controversial protest.
Trump angered NFL stars, team owners and league officials last month in describing players who refused to stand for the anthem as "sons of b******".
His comments sparked a wave of demonstrations around the league, with many players and some team owners locking arms in a sign of unity.