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Pence exits NFL game after players kneel during anthem

Pence exits NFL game after players kneel during anthem
Reuters: Top News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a National Football League game on Sunday after some players knelt during the national anthem, a form of demonstration that began last year in silent protest against police violence toward racial minorities.

Pence was attending a game in his home state of Indiana between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers.

When the national anthem was played before the start of the game, some 49ers knelt while some Colts, their arms locked, wore black T-shirts with the words "We Will" on the front and "Stand for equality, justice, unity, respect, dialogue, opportunity" on the back.

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

President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Sunday that he had asked Pence to leave the stadium "if any player kneeled, disrespecting our country."

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters October 8, 2017. The White House/Handout via REUTERS

Neither the White House nor Pence's office responded to requests for comment about whether the White House had planned Pence's departure in advance. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined to comment.

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence stand during the national anthem prior to the start of an NFL football game between the Indiana Colts and the San Francisco 49ers at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., October 8, 2017. White House/Myles Cullen/Handout via REUTERS

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars the government from limiting free speech, including prohibiting protests of the national anthem or punishing people who choose not to stand.

Less than an hour after issuing Pence's statement, the White House released a picture of him and his wife at the stadium where the game took place, standing with hands over their hearts during the performance of the national anthem.

Trump's criticism of the NFL players has played well with his conservative base while he grapples with controversies over Iran and North Korea, an investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and policy struggles in Congress.

Pence's team Indianapolis defeated San Francisco, 26-23, in overtime.

Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Ginger Gibson; Editing by Grant McCool and Howard Goller

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Original Article: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/topNews/~3/TrhKuJ61uG8/pence-exits-nfl-game-after-players-kneel-during-anthem-idUSKBN1CD0SP

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