Vice President Mike Pence protested the NFL national anthem protestors during the Indianapolis Colts game against the San Francisco 49ers. Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence stood and watched with hands over hearts as about a dozen Niners took a knee during the national anthem. At the request of President Donald Trump, Pence left the stadium after seeing players down.
“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,” said Pence in a statement issued by the White House.
Pence and his wife had been planning this trip for months to watch Peyton Manning being honored at halftime. Instead, they left after watching the 49ers take a knee. Interestingly enough, Pence immediately flew straight to Los Angeles for a fundraising event leaving many to speculate this was a planned PR stunt for Donald Trump’s benefit.
The Niners are actually one of the last NFL franchises left that still hasn’t done anything about the situation. Believe it or not, most of the teams, at this point, three weeks since Trump’s comments, have taken action to ensure all their players stand for the national anthem. The Denver Broncos made adjustments after a number of their players were down during Week Three. The New Orleans Saints decided to take a knee before the anthem as a team. The Pittsburgh Steelers put an end to the madness one week after they refused to come out onto the field.
This week, the Miami Dolphins told tight end Julius Thomas, wide receiver Kenny Stills, and defensive back Mike Thomas were all made to stay in the locker room until after the national anthem by owner Stephen Ross. While Ross has made it very public that he is no fan of Trump, he does not want to incur the President’s wrath.
“I think it’s incumbent upon players today if that’s how the public is looking at it, is to stand and salute the flag,” said Ross. “Trump has made [standing for the anthem] about patriotism. It’s so important if that’s what the country is looking at to look at it differently…It’s a different dialogue. Whenever you’re dealing with the flag, you’re dealing with something different.”
Ross isn’t the only owner to speak out publicly now about their new team policy. Jerry Jones, the outspoken owner of the Dallas Cowboys and a longtime supporter of Trump, made it clear that no one on his team—and no one in the NFL—should be allowed to disrespect the flag.
“I know this,” said Jones. “We cannot in the NFL, in any way, give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag. We cannot do that. I know the Vice President did leave because, in his opinion, the teams were. We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues. But there is no question in my mind that the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag. Just so we’re clear.”
Jones would much rather his players appear disrespectful to each other than to the country, and he finished his angry post-loss rant by stating that any player of his disrespecting the flag will not be playing for long.
“The main thing I want to do is make it real clear,” continued Jones. “There is no room here. If it comes between looking non-supportive of our players and of each other or creating the impression that you’re disrespecting the flag, we will be non-supportive of each other. We will not disrespect the flag. If there is anything disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period. We’re going to respect the flag, and I’m going to create the perception of it.”
It looks like after three weeks of asking when the owners are going to feel the financial pressure to shut this down; they’ve felt the pressure. We probably won’t be seeing much more of this outside of San Francisco.
So just how much did Mike Pence’s planned / unplanned stunt cost Americans?
Air travel alone likely racked up a hefty bill. Planes similar to Air Force 2 cost roughly $30,000 per hour to operate, the Air Force told CNN. Pence’s flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis took over three hours on Saturday, and his flight to Los Angeles on Sunday took nearly five hours. Roughly eight hours of Air Force 2 use could have cost as much as $240,000.
The Republican National Committee would reimburse some of Pence’s airfare costs to L.A. since he was attending a “political event” there, CNN reported. Still, flying directly from Las Vegas to L.A. would have cost just $45,000.
Additional costs incurred during the trip include Pence’s motorcade, a bolstered local police presence and hotel rooms in Indianapolis for Pence’s family and his security detail.
An aide to the vice president defended Pence’s visit to Indiana in a statement to CNN on Monday. The aide appeared to imply that the trip actually saved taxpayers’ money.
“The Vice President was not going to miss the Las Vegas memorial prayer walk on Saturday, which he was honored to attend on behalf of President Trump,” he said. “If the Vice President did not go to Indiana for the Colts game, he would have flown back to DC for the evening — which means flying directly over Indiana. Instead, he made a shorter trip to Indiana for a game that was on his schedule for several weeks.”
Backlash over Pence’s trip to Indianapolis comes less than two weeks after Tom Price resigned as secretary of human health and services following reports that his actions cost taxpayers over $1 million in unnecessary chartered and military flights. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have also come under fire recently over their use of chartered flights.