Amid criticism over Vice President Mike Pence’s truncated visit to an NFL game Sunday, President Donald Trump said the trip was “long planned” in a tweet Monday.
Pence left the San Francisco 49ers-Colts game in Indianapolis after several 49ers knelt during the national anthem, a move many saw as a political gambit. The 49ers have been one of the more active teams in protesting to highlight racial inequality.
Trump continued in his tweet, “He is receiving great praise for leaving game after players showed such disrespect for country!”
Pence’s trip on Air Force 2 — which doesn’t take into account logistics on the ground like Secret Service — cost about $242,500, according to an estimate from CNN published on Monday. Pence flew from Las Vegas to Indianapolis before he headed to a fundraiser in Southern California.
“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. I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem,” Pence said on Twitter.
Trump followed with a tweet that said he asked “Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled.”
49ers safety Eric Reid, one of the players who took a knee before Sunday’s game, said he was disappointed that a man with as much power to influence change as Pence is among those “confusing the message.”
“If I need to say it every time y’all ask me, I will: This is not about the military. This is not about the flag. This is not about the anthem,” said Reid, who joined former quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the anthem last season and called Pence’s walkout a “political stunt.”
Jim Ayello and Emma Kate Fittes of the Indianapolis Star contributed to this report.
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