San Francisco safety Eric Reid has been kneeling during the national anthem since last season to protest social injustice. On Sunday, some 49ers players knelt during the anthem ahead of the game against the Colts, which prompted Vice President Mike Pence to leave Lucas Oil Stadium and issue this statement:
“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. At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us. 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.”
Asked about Pence’s departure after the game, Reid didn’t hold back:
“First of all, does anybody know the last time he went to a football game? With that being said, he tweeted out a three-year-old photo from the Colts game,” Reid told reporters, referring to what appears to be Pence reusing a photo that was originally taken during the 2014 season.
Reid continued: “With the information I have, the last time he went to a Colts game was three years ago, so this looks like a PR stunt to me. He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew we were probably going to do it again. And so this is what systemic oppression looks like — a man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts. Again, based on the information I have, that’s the assumption that I made.”
Before last Sunday’s game, the 49ers took part in a display of unity that included at least 30 players kneeling during the anthem. Other teammates stood behind them and everyone on the 49ers’ sideline appeared to have their hand over their hearts.
NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard reported earlier Sunday that a vice presidential staffer told pool reporters that Pence had planned to leave the game early. And shortly after Pence departed, President Donald Trump tweeted, “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.”
Also at issue: the cost to taxpayers. Pence flew from Las Vegas to Indiana on Saturday night and then after one series, flew to California. CNN’s Kevin Liptak reported that the operating costs for Pence’s plane are more than $42,000 an hour.
Back in August, Reid explained why he resumed his anthem protest.
“I feel I needed to regain control of that narrative and not let people say that what we’re doing is un-American, because it’s not. It’s completely American,” he said, via the MercuryNews.com. “We’re doing it because we want equality for everybody. We want our country to be a better place. So that’s why I decided to resume the protest.”