Mike Pence’s Staged NFL Publicity Stunt

By Susan Kuebler

Back in September Donald Trump called for NFL fans to boycott the NFL because Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players had chosen to sit or take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem.

Trump maintained his Twitter attacks on the NFL, the owners, and the players in the ensuing weeks.

These are just a small sampling of the volume of tweets that Trump sent out lambasting the NFL instead of focusing on other issues such as say, Puerto Rico.

So where does Vice President Mike Pence go on Sunday?  To an NFL football game.  In Indianapolis.  Where the Colts were playing the San Francisco 49ers, a team that has consistently taken a knee in support of Colin Kaepernick who initiated the entire movement.  So when the National Anthem was played, and players for the 49ers took a knee, Pence and his entourage left in outraged righteousness.  Of course, he knew they would do it.  One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

Then almost immediately, he released the following statement:

Let’s see, the game would have started at 1:00 pm EST and the statement was issued at 1:24 pm EST. Boy, it sure didn’t take long for him to find someone ready and able to product an official statement for immediate release on a Sunday.  Unless, perhaps, he had it planned all along.

Trump has tried to turn peaceful protests by NFL players (and some in other sports as well) into a referendum on respect for the National Anthem and has wrapped himself in the flag to make it about him as well.  This has nothing to do with respecting the flag or our country.  These are men, and some women, who are trying to draw attention to an issue that is plaguing our nation.  The racism and danger that people of color receive from the hands of law enforcement.  They are doing so without disrupting the game or making any offensive gestures.

If you are old enough, you may recall the 1968 Olympics where two black American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fists using the Black Power salute at the medal ceremony.

Yes, there were people who were outraged and offended.  But nobody stripped them of their medals although they faced serious difficulties following the games.  Silver medalist Australian Peter Norman expressed his support for both men and was never again chosen to represent Australia at the Olympics despite having qualified at least eleven times.  When he died in 2006, Smith and Carlos served as pallbearers at this funeral.

However, the president of the International Olympic Committee Avery Brundage, who saw no problem with German athletes giving the Nazi salute during the Berlin Olympic games, demanded that the athletes be suspended from the Games and expelled from the Olympic village.  At first, the U.S. Olympic committee refused to do so, but when Brundage threatened to expel the entire U.S. track and field team, they yielded to his demands.  In 2008 both men received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY Awards.  In 2016 the National Museum of African American History and Culture had a statue honoring the men. [source: Wikipedia]

Mike Pence attended the NFL game today knowing full well what would happen.  He chose to turn it into a publicity stunt designed to score points with Trump’s base.  His gesture does not demonstrate respect for the flag or the anthem.  Both are simply symbols for what America stands for – freedom.  And that freedom is enshrined in our Constitution – the freedom of speech, the freedom to peacefully protest.  Standing for the National Anthem and our Flag is a meaningless gesture if you are not prepared to honor what they represent.

Shame on you Mike Pence. Shame.

"All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well". Julian of Norwich.

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