On Sunday, an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers became the scene of controversy when Vice President Mike Pence, who was in attendance at the game, walked out after about twenty 49ers players took a knee during the pre-game national anthem.
Pence has, in the hours since his walkout, attracted wide scrutiny for seeming to use his attendance at the game as nothing more than a political stunt. It’s not as though he could legitimately claim surprise at the fact that players on the 49ers team took a knee; that team is literally where the peaceful protest first took off, thanks to their former quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Indiana sports writer Gregg Doyel is among those who have spoken out against the Vice President since his stunt.
The opening of his column on the subject is chillingly accurate in its description of the present state of the country under Trump and Pence.
‘North Korea and its nukes can wait. The White House has declared war on the NFL. And on the First Amendment.’
As he went on to explain:
‘What, you think he didn’t know the 49ers would kneel on Sunday? Pence knew. The 49ers are the one franchise, the only franchise, that have had at least one player kneel before every game since Colin Kaepernick was the first to do it in the 2016 preseason. Kaepernick played for the 49ers, of course. Last week… more than half the San Francisco roster knelt. Pence knew.’
Even though Pence knew that players would kneel before the game, he still chose to expend large amounts of taxpayer dollars to attend this game just long enough to make this statement anyway.
Besides the financial aspect to Pence’s trip, Doyel echoed the sentiments of millions of Americans in expressing his astonishment at the fact that the president and vice president have taken such a strong stance against free speech. The president and his base have claimed that taking a knee during the anthem is disrespectful to current and former members of the Armed Forces; it’s not, however — the freedom to peacefully protest is exactly what the members of the Armed Forces fight for.
‘The bigger part of me is stunned that the President – and now Vice President – of the United States would take such a public position against the one of the greatest rights the U.S. Constitution grants us: freedom of speech… when the top two elected leaders of our democracy decide that political speech – in this case, a silent and non-violent form of political speech – is unacceptable to the point of walking out of the game where it happens, well, that’s chilling.’
Doyel is right. The president and vice president are supposed to stick up for the right to free speech, not spend their time attacking speech they do not agree with. Even still, the two of them show no sign of letting up in their campaign against “fake news” that isn’t really fake, even while there are an endless array of actually pressing issues at hand.
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