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EDITORIAL: Pence made the wrong play



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In a clearly political and highly controversial decision, Vice President Mike Pence left the Oct. 8 Indianapolis Colts game following the demonstration of protesting players who knelt during the national anthem.

Pence’s actions reflect President Trump’s critical attitude toward the protests and appear to be a direct order from Trump, who tweeted confirmation of his instructions for “Pence to leave (the) stadium if any players kneeled.” 

Pence spent taxpayer money to protest players exercising their First Amendment rights, and Hoosiers should not support his stunt.

Both Pence and Trump have expressed their opinions that the national anthem does not simply represent our nation in its entirety but specifically the soldiers that fight for our country. 

Pence tweeted that he “will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag or our National Anthem.”

The Indiana branch of the American Legion, a local veterans group composed of 84,000 members, agreed with Pence’s actions. It said, “Kneeling during the National Anthem and not paying respects to the flag is offensive to many in the veterans community.”

There are, of course, plenty who disagree. Eric Reid, a player for the San Francisco 49ers, told the press that he has “the utmost respect for the military, for the anthem, for the flag” and has several family members in the military, but his decision to kneel “is about systemic oppression that has been rampant in this country.”

Confusion about the nature of the protest is not the only reason why Pence is receiving criticism. Many are also concerned about the taxpayer money Pence used to attend the game. 

Travel expenses to and from Indianapolis are approximately $242,500, too much money for what critics view as a political stunt. This number does not include security expenses. 

It is necessary, and even admirable, for elected officials to be consistent with the beliefs that got them elected. However, Pence and Trump have made their points clear, and continuous reiteration of these points in this manner is proving to be unhelpful. 

The Editorial Board feels it is not enough for Pence to acknowledge that “everybody’s entitled to their opinion” – especially when he and Trump are treating the players’ opinions as invalid. The players' stance on racial injustice is perfectly legitimate. 

The time has come for our nation’s highest-ranking public servants to recognize that their actions are not serving the public and are instead impeding progress on a critical social issue. 

The problems that kneeling players are calling attention to are real ones, and they deserve sincere consideration. After all, black Americans make up 25 percent of people killed by police this year, despite making up only 13 percent of the population. 

Historically, black Americans are three times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police.  

Pence claimed in a tweet that he doesn’t “think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem.” Well, Mr. Pence, we don’t think it’s too much to ask that you address the needs of your constituents.  

We do not need any more stubborn stunts or petty refusals from the men elected to lead us. What we do need are serious reforms to our criminal justice system and empathetic solidarity for those affected by racial violence. 

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