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Vice President’s NFL walkout is nothing more than political grandstanding

Like every American, Vice President Mike Pence is free to be offended by whatever he chooses to find offensive. Political correctness comes from every direction and has become the base emotion of modern society – if you don’t agree with me you should be silenced, fired, walked out on, or worse. So it was of little surprise that Pence did, indeed, leave Sunday’s San Francisco 49ers-Indianapolis Colts NFL game after a number of players chose to kneel for the national anthem.

Pence was offended, a sentiment many other Americans share. President Donald Trump claims he even instructed Pence to walk out if any players took a knee, a preemptive strategy in case of being offended. “I asked Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country,” Trump quickly tweeted after Pence and his wife Karen left Lucas Oil Stadium.

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So there’s the circle: For every predicted action there is a planned reaction. That’s America, home of the free. It’s also American that you can dismiss political grandstanding for what it is: a cheap play to the base, even, or especially, if you are the base. Maybe you agree with Trump and Pence and believe kneeling during the anthem is an affront to the country. Or maybe you side with the players’ workplace-granted right to protest. Or perhaps you just don’t care (the third group is arguably the largest here).

No matter what, this was almost certainly a predetermined attempt to gain political points by stirring up an issue that, once again, had begun to die down. Pence even quickly released a statement expressing his outrage. “I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag and our National Anthem,” the swiftly written statement read. It’s believed only eight to 10 players kneeled in Week 2 of the NFL season. No one was really counting or paying much attention. Then Trump called them a “son of a bitch” and called for their firing at a political rally. Suddenly, entire teams were protesting, gasoline poured on a near-extinguished controversy.

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There was no surprise players would take a knee before this game. The 49ers, Colin Kaepernick’s former team, have been among the league leaders in pregame protests. Last week about 25 of the 49ers took a knee. On Sunday, a similar number of players did so again, according to media accounts. If Trump and Pence didn’t expect it to occur, you have to question their ability to analyze intelligence data and predict enemy events. Next up, Mike Pence will attend an R-rated movie and walk out in protest if there is any foul language, violence or adult situations.

If Pence was truly offended by the Niners and the Colts on Sunday, he was seeking the opportunity to be offended. And if he was seeking the opportunity to be offended, then he was doing it to create a dramatic moment where he could claim to be standing up for all those offended Americans. Trump loves this wedge issue as a distraction. He knows blatantly trying to exploit the issue will earn cheers from his base. It always does in politics.

Maybe Pence should have just protested the NFL like other fans by not showing up or tuning in to watch. Many are doing it because they find the protesting players to be offensive or out of place. Since they know the protests will occur during the anthem, why even engage? There’s another group that is ignoring the league because they feel NFL owners have blackballed Kaepernick.

There is nothing wrong with either position, or the boycotts themselves. The NFL is an entertainment option, not an obligation. People can choose to consume or not consume. Many reasonable people don’t like the kneeling, including many NFL players themselves. Be offended. Be politically correct. Or don’t. Whatever.

Except if Pence really cared about the issue he could have used the opportunity to meet with some NFL players, and directly explain to them why he and many other Americans are offended. He could discuss why he believes they should stop the protests. The average fan can’t gain audience with NFL players. The vice president sure can, though. He could have called them out eye-to-eye, man-to-man.

He could even listen to their side of things, perhaps beginning an important dialogue that goes past the cable TV shout-fest shows. That would qualify as actual leadership. This is the United States of America in 2017, though, so forget that. Stunts and tweets and planned outrage at whatever they define as politically incorrect are how all sides of the political spectrum do business. Dumb keeps getting dumber.

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