Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife Karen stand for the National Anthem.
Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife Karen stand for the National Anthem. Michael Conroy

After players knelt to support black people, Pence walked

US VICE-President Mike Pence has walked out of a football game where players knelt during the national anthem, saying he will "not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag or our national anthem”.

"While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don't think it's too much to ask NFL players to respect the flag and our national anthem,” he said in a statement after walking out of the Indianapolis Colts vs San Francisco 49ers game in his home state of Indiana.

He added: "I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our flag and national anthem.”

Mr Trump later took credit for the display, tweeting he had asked the Vice-President to walk out if any players knelt.

More than 20 of the 49ers knelt before the game. Colts players wore black t-shirts reading "We Will” on the front and "Stand for equality, justice, unity, respect, dialogue, opportunity” on the back.

Reporters covering the Vice-President said they were held in their vans outside the game in case of an early departure.

Afterwards, San Francisco 49s player Eric Reid told reporters the incident looked "like a PR stunt”.

"Wait. This was orchestrated to make a point?” tweeted Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz. "That's not an inexpensive thing to do.”

Many players have started kneeling during the national anthem in recent weeks as a form of peaceful protest.

Ex-49er Colin Kaepernick started the practice last year by sitting out the anthem in protest at police brutality against black people.

Mr Trump brought renewed attention to the issue last month, when he began tweeting and talking about his opposition to the protest.

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired,” the President said at a campaign rally in September.

- Emily Shugerman, The Independent