According to a report from the Huffington Post, Vice President Mike Pence’s political stunt at an NFL game last year cost the American taxpayers $325,000.
Exactly one year ago, on Oct. 8, 2017, Pence pretended to take in an Indianapolis Colts game in his home state of Indiana. While he stood with his right hand over his heart during the pre-game national anthem, a few San Francisco 49ers players kneeled to protest racial inequality and police brutality. They were continuing the demonstration begun by their former teammate, Colin Kaepernick. After the national anthem played, Pence left his luxury box and Lucas Oil Stadium in his own form of protest.
“President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence said in a statement.
Documents from the Department of Homeland Security show receipts detailing hotel expenses, security, and Air Force Two operational expenses in the tens of thousands of dollars. Charges ranged from $75,000 in Secret Service costs, to $2,368 paid to the city for “temporary walkways” for Pence to travel on.
President Donald Trump said he ordered Pence and his wife to execute the political tactic. Trump has been beefing with the NFL over the national anthem protests since nearly their inception.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017
Pence’s team made the move seem like a spur of the moment decision. His official media schedule for that day said he would be at the game from 1-4pm ET.
“At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us,” he said in a statement.
But the receipts support critics’ assumptions that Pence’s departure was premeditated and wasteful.
From the Huffington Post report:
The dates on the documents lend further credence to the notion this was a hastily planned stunt and not, as a Pence aide claimed to CNN, an event planned “for weeks” so that the vice president could watch a ceremony honoring former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. The walkways, rented from an event company based out of Cincinnati, were ordered only the Friday before the game and a lodging addendum for the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Airport was signed just three days before the game.
The walkways were also scheduled to be picked up at 4 p.m. on Sunday, but any football fan knows a game with a 1 p.m. kickoff is no sure bet to end by 4. (The game ended up going into overtime, taking three hours and 32 minutes.) Pence’s pool reporters were told by a staffer that day that Pence “may depart the game early,” but the staffer “did not indicate how early.”
America’s sports have been politicized along cultural and party lines more than ever since Trump’s presidency. The NFL, in particular, is this nation’s most popular sport. That makes it a prime venue for opportunistic politicians, athletes, and fans to make a statement. The only difference is it costs the latter two next to nothing to say their piece, while it requires politicians like Pence a chunk of money from the American people.