This is not about the flag.

Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence attended an NFL national anthem performance in Indianapolis. Typically, this would imply that he watched the football game that followed but in this ridiculous stupid maddening curious instance it does not. Because, as soon as the anthem – for which several visiting 49ers players kneeled – was over, Pence exited stage left and he did so with a purpose.

How the hell does something like this even happen? Well, the official story is that Pence, the former governor of Indiana, simply happens to be a devoted Colts fan attending a game that featured a ceremony to honor Colts icon Peyton Manning; upon seeing football players kneeling during the anthem, the vice president’s delicate sensibilities were so offended that he had to abruptly leave the game in protest. Of course, it would be hard not to notice that Pence chose to attend a game featuring a 49ers team that has consistently embraced the kneeling protest that their former quarterback Colin Kaepernick started, and also that Pence was able to release a pretty polished statement almost immediately after leaving the game. Along with some other info, this seems to indicate that this was a premeditated PR stunt. None of which addresses the fact that vice president is willfully misinterpreting the players’ protest: they’re not protesting the flag or the military, they’re protesting police brutality against African Americans, a fact not lost on the significant number of veterans who have openly identified Kaepernick’s behavior as being exactly the kind of thing they serve to protect.

Before we get too far from Pence’s actions, let’s not forget that Pence was instructed by President Trump to leave the Colts game if protests occurred which – again, given the involvement of the 49ers – they almost certainly would. This means that two of the most powerful individuals in the country took time out of their busy schedules1 to make sure that they were on the same page regarding how to best chastise professional athletes instead of, oh I don’t fucking know, helping to rebuild Texas or Florida or working to get food, water and power to the millions of American citizens currently struggling to survive in Puerto Rico.

To be clear, Pence – like every American – is certainly entitled to leave a game of football if he wants to and he has every right to peacefully protest if that’s how he chooses to express himself. What’s exceptionally bizarre in this particular circumstance is the blinding stupidity and overwhelming irony of the Vice President of the United States of America peacefully protesting the right of American citizens to…peacefully protest. That actually happened.

What possible reason could Pence have for protesting the right of other Americans to do the very thing that he himself has chosen to do? What arbitrary distinction is Pence drawing between his “acceptable” protests and the “unacceptable” ones of NFL players? It’s almost as if Pence’s actions suggest that peaceful protest is okay for some types of people but not for others. As if there were some kind of cultural hegemony that lifted up the voices of some while seeking to silence the voices of others.

Oh, right.

  1. It takes a very long time to play a round of golf.

Brennan Quenneville is an editor and contributor at The Read Option. He can also be found at his blog and at Type In Stereo, where he is a contributor.

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