US Vice President Mike Pence walks out of NFL game after several players kneel during anthem
United States vice-president Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game on Sunday after several players took a knee during the national anthem prior to kick-off.
More than a dozen San Francisco 49ers players took a knee during the anthem prior to their game against the Colts in Indianapolis, continuing the ongoing protests against perceived racial injustice which have been staged by a number of athletes in different sports since last year.
Pence, the former Indiana governor, had attended the game to watch a ceremony honouring former Colts great Peyton Manning scheduled for half-time, but chose to leave after the anthems.
In a statement, Pence said: "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."
After Pence issued his statement, Trump used Twitter to say he had told his vice-president to walk out if any protests occurred during the anthem.
"I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen," Trump wrote.
Last month, Trump called on NFL owners to release any players who took part in the protests.
However, that prompted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to defend the players' right to express themselves, while several team owners also issued statements supporting their players. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a Trump supporter, joined his players in taking a knee before the anthem was played at a home game on September 25.