Mike Pence stages his own NFL protest during Colts-49ers game honoring Peyton Manning

Vice President Mike Pence at a Colts game
(Image credit: AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Vice President Mike Pence flew from Las Vegas to Indianapolis for Sunday afternoon's game between the Colts and San Francisco 49ers, an event that was supposed to be focused on former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, whose number was being retired. Instead, Pence and his wife, second lady Karen Pence, left after the national anthem, during which Colts players linked arms and some 49ers kneeled, part of a yearlong protest against racism and police brutality that was recently amplified by President Trump. Most observersreportedly including those inside the West Wing — viewed Pence's NFL protest as a transparent play to breathe new life into Trump's feud with NFL players.

Pence, after bizarrely posting a photo of himself and his wife at a 2014 Colts game, tweeted that he left Sunday's game "because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem." Trump tweeted that he had asked Pence "to leave stadium if any players kneeled." The pool reporters assigned to Pence were told to wait in the van because the vice president would likely leave early; also, Pence was scheduled to be at a fundraiser in Los Angeles on Sunday evening, the first of four during a three-day swing through the Golden State. Among those skeptical of Pence's intentions was 49ers safety Eric Reid, who said "this looks like a PR stunt to me."

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If so, it was an expensive stunt. The tab for flying Air Force Two to Indianapolis and back from the West Coast was at least $250,000, The Washington Post calculates, and then there are the costs of Secret Service advance work and local police and other emergency responders working Sunday shifts to ensure Pence's safety in Indianapolis. If the Pences had wanted to honor Manning, it would have been cheaper and more precious to just invite him to dinner at the Naval Observatory, their government-issued mansion.

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