After two seasons of NFL players protesting during the playing of the national anthem, a USA Today columnist is now saying that the real “mockery” of the American national anthem was perpetrated on Sunday by Vice President Mike Pence.
The vice president attended Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers, but because 23 players on the 49er sideline took a knee during the playing of the anthem, the VP did a protest of his own, and walked out. Pence stood hand over heart while the anthem played, but left soon thereafter.
Presiden Donald Trump praised his VP and even said he asked Pence to leave the game if any protests broke out:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017
The VP’s actions elicited a variety of responses. Former ESPN commentator Britt McHenry, for one, said that Pence had “every right to leave when the flag is disrespected.”
On the other hand, 49ers player Eric Reid proclaimed Pence’s actions to be something akin to “oppression.”
Like Reid, the former Indiana governor’s statement also disgusted well-known leftist, and USA Today columnist, Nancy Armour.
For her October 8 column, Armour claimed she was incensed by Vice President Pence’s actions. “A mockery was made of the national anthem all right,” she wrote at the outset of her column.
“Vice President Mike Pence turned the anthem into a prop Sunday, co-opting it for a stunt that served no other purpose than to sow division, further enrage the administration’s conservative base and try to cow NFL owners,” Armour claimed. “That it likely deflected attention from yet more neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville was all the better.”
Pence put out a statement and promoted a photo of himself standing for the anthem, but to that, Armour complained, “spare me.”
The columnist went on to slam Pence for perpetrating a “stunt.”
“This isn’t about patriotism or love of country or any other garbage excuse. This was a carefully orchestrated PR move — one staged at no small expense to taxpayers, given Pence flew to Indianapolis from Las Vegas on Saturday night and was heading back out West to Los Angeles later Sunday,” Armour wrote.
Armour added that she wasn’t attacking Pence for having his own opinion about the protests. However, she insisted that his actions were not “sincere.”
“No, this is about the sincerity of Pence’s ‘protest.’ This was not a heartfelt expression of political dissent, as the player protests have been,” Armour wrote. “This was pure political theater, as disingenuous as it was calculated.”
The USA Today columnist next praised the San Francisco 49ers for hosting the anthem protests and for engaging in other activism in support of social activism.
Yet, after two years of nearly the entirety of the National Football League shamelessly using the national anthem to score political points, it was Pence for whom Armour reserved her harsh criticism.
“Some of the 49ers knelt, but the disrespect came from Pence. In a shameless bid for political points, he tried to play the country for a fool,” she concluded.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.