Trump and Pence’s Colts vs. 49ers Protest Cost Nearly $250,000

Vice President Mike Pence left the NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers early on Sunday night—apparently at President Donald Trump’s bidding—after around a dozen 49ers kneeled during the anthem.

Pence was ostensibly visiting Indianapolis to honor Peyton Manning, the Colts’ Super Bowl-winning quarterback who had a statue of himself unveiled before the Colts’ overtime victory. The vice-president was Governor of Indiana from 2013 to 2017.

Pence didn’t get to see any of the game, though. "I left today's Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem," Pence wrote in a series of explanatory tweets on Sunday evening.

“I stand with @POTUS Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.” Trump tweeted about an hour later on Sunday evening that he had orchestrated Pence’s walkout. “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country,” Trump wrote. “I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.” Eric Reid, the 49ers safety, called Pence’s walkout a “stunt” after the game, as reported by Jennifer Lee Chan of NinersNation.com.

Trump has been engaged in a battle with the NFL and its players since he told a rally in Alabama on September 22 that any player protesting the perceived treatment of black people in the United States by kneeling during the anthem should be “fired.” The practise has caught hold in the NFL since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to kneel at the start of the 2016-17 season.

Curiously, Pence was never meant to take in the whole of the game. The Guardian reports that Air Force Two was scheduled to take off from Indianapolis International Airport at 4 p.m. E.T. to get the Vice-President to a political fundraiser in Los Angeles. The Colts and 49ers finished their game, after overtime, after 4.30 p.m. ET.

That, as well as a report from NBC that the Vice-Presidential pool never got to enter the stadium and was told that Pence could leave the game early, seemed to have angered Democrats who pointed out the potential cost of Pence’s trip. Brian Schatz, the Senior United States Senator from Hawaii, tweeted, “Wait. This was orchestrated to make a point? That's not an inexpensive thing to do,” in response to Trump’s explanation.

Schatz was probably about right. Totalling up the money spent flying Pence from Las Vegas to Indianapolis and then on to Los Angeles, CNN calculated the entire trip would have cost around $242,500. Flying from Las Vegas to L.A. would have cost around $45,000. A Pence aide told CNN on Sunday that the game had been on the Vice-President’s schedule “for several weeks.

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