Yesterday Vice President Mike Pence showed up at the NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. He stayed for the National Anthem ceremony and then left the game. According to journalists in Pence’s traveling press corps, they had been advised to wait in the vans at the stadium since Pence was expected to depart the game quickly. After departing, Pence immediately tweeted that he left because he was upset about NFL players who took a knee during the anthem. Donald Trump subsequently tweeted his support for Pence walking out and implied it was all done at his behest.
Here is San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid’s take on Mike Pence’s walkout: “So this looks like a PR stunt to me. He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew that we were probably going to do it again. This is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple of things out, and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts. Based on the information I have, that’s the assumption I’ve made.”
Millions of American citizens are struggling to recover from 3 catastrophic hurricanes. Our country is reeling from a mass shooting that left 59 people dead and hundreds injured. Tensions with North Korea are escalating. White supremacists rallied for a second time in Charlottesville this past weekend. Four American soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger last week.
With multiple domestic crises and pressing foreign policy concerns, why would Mike Pence, acting on the direction of Donald Trump, pull a PR stunt at an NFL game? Why is the Trump administration doubling down on its efforts to sow division and undermine the First Amendment rights of American citizens?
There are multiple answers to those questions, including: Donald Trump’s petty vendetta against the NFL which rejected his ownership bid decades ago, his desire to deflect attention from his administration’s string of policy and legislative failures, and his using “patriotism” and fake outrage to gin up support from his base.
All of the above reasons are true, but incomplete.
Eric Reid is absolutely right. This is what systemic oppression looks like. Trump and Pence are using the power of the presidency to bully NFL players who are peacefully protesting against police brutality and racial injustice. Their tactics are not new. Throughout the history of this country, elected officials and law enforcement have used intimidation and violence to prevent marginalized people from having their voices heard and exercising their rights to protest against inequality and injustice.
Mike Pence’s walkout was not about patriotism nor supporting our military. His walkout was a clear example of systemic oppression from the highest elected office: the Oval Office.
By: Christina Rome