INDIANAPOLIS -- Before Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts, the San Francisco 49ers had more than 20 players kneeling during the national anthem with their hands over their hearts and their teammates at their side.
It was the second consecutive week the Niners had such a demonstration during the national anthem and the continuation of a long-running line of protests or demonstrations performed by the Niners dating to last year. In fact, aside from their first two preseason games in 2017, the 49ers have had at least one player kneeling during the national anthem in every game dating to the first game of the 2016 preseason.
This time was different, though. This time, the vice president of the United States was in the crowd. Vice President Mike Pence attended Sunday's game at Lucas Oil Stadium, at least for a while.
Pence departed after the national anthem and immediately took to Twitter to point to the Niners' demonstration as his reason for the early exit.
After the game, 49ers safety Eric Reid, who last year was the second player to join quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling as a form of protest of racial inequality in the country, discussed Pence's decision to leave the stadium.
Here's what Reid said:
Question: What was your reaction to the vice president leaving today's game because of you and your teammates kneeling during the national anthem?
Eric Reid: "My honest reaction ... first of all, does anybody know the last time he's been to a football game? With that being said, he tweeted out a 3-year-old photo of him at a Colts game. So with the information I have, the last time he's been to a Colts game was three years ago. So this looks like a PR stunt to me. He knew our team has had the most players protest; he knew that we were probably going to do it again, and so this is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts. Again, based on the information I have, that's the assumption that I made."
Question: Is this movement gaining more momentum?
Reid: "I think so. To echo what [coach] Kyle [Shanahan] said, we didn't have a plan like we did last week. These were guys that felt compelled to continue to protest. I think it is gaining ground. I've spoken to y'all previously about controlling the narrative, and that's what we'll do. If I need to say it every time y'all ask me, this is not about the military, this is not about the flag, this is not about the anthem. My mother served in the Armed Forces. Three of my uncles served in the Armed Forces. In fact, my mom would have gone to the Persian Gulf War had she not been pregnant with me. I have the utmost respect for the military, the anthem and the flag, so I will say that every time y'all interview me. This is about systemic oppression that has been rampant in this country for decades on top of decades. And I will continue to say and encourage people to educate themselves on how we got to where we are today because it didn't happen overnight and it's not going to happen overnight to fix these issues. So we're going to keep talking about it.
"I know that I will keep doing what I feel is necessary to use the platform I have to make those changes. It's really disheartening when everything that I was raised on was to be the best person I could be to help people that need help and the vice president of the United States is trying to confuse the message on what we're trying to put out there. I don't know what else to say about it.
"I'd like to believe that he's such a busy man that he hasn't had time to hear our message, but this has been going on for over a year now, so I know that's not the case."