EDITORIAL: Mike Pence — puppet, pawn or just a proud American?

So Vice President Mike Pence is a puppet and a pawn for walking out of the 49ers-Colts game in Indianapolis Sunday when several San Francisco players took a knee during the national anthem? That action, of course, piled criticism on Pence, who in some people’s eyes is wrong for expressing his own opinion.

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid said Pence’s departure looked like “a PR stunt.”

“He knew our team has had the most players protest, he knew that we were probably going to do it again,” Reid told The Associated Press. “This is what systemic oppression looks like: Man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple things out and leaves the game in an attempt to thwart our efforts.”

NFL players insist on protesting their particular grievances during the National Anthem at their games, but if the vice president himself makes a counter-protest it’s a PR stunt.

After Pence’s walkout, President Trump tweeted: “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.” The tweet raised the question of whether Pence’s actions had been planned in advance.

The former Indiana governor flew into Indianapolis so he could watch Peyton Manning’s jersey retirement ceremony. “I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” he tweeted.

“The trip by @VP Pence was long planned,” President Trump tweeted early Monday. “He is receiving great praise for leaving game after the players showed such disrespect for country!”

The White House also issued a statement from Pence, in which he said Americans should rally around the flag: “I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem.” Isn’t that the point of this whole controversy?