Vice President Pence walks out of NFL game in protest against protest

Vice President Pence walks out of NFL game in protest against protest

US Vice President Mike Pence has walked out of a National Football League (NFL) game in his home state of Indiana after some players knelt during the national anthem, a form of demonstration that began last year as a symbolic protest about police violence against racial minorities.

"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," Mr Pence said in a statement issued by the White House.

President Donald Trump has criticised players sharply for the protests and has pressed the NFL to ban them, despite the right to participate in such a protest being protected by the US Constitution's First Amendment.

On Sunday, Mr Trump praised the Vice President for taking his side and following his requests.

"I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen," Mr Trump wrote.

Critics of players kneeling at the pre-game playing of the national anthem, including Mr Trump, object to any protest, regardless of its merits, during a ceremony meant to honour the US flag and military veterans.

Mr Pence, who has gone out of his way to demonstrate loyalty to Mr Trump, said in his statement it was important to rally around the flag and things that unite the country.

"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," Mr Pence said.

"I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our flag and our national anthem."