Was the vice president’s walk-out of last week’s 49ers-Colts game a staged political stunt?

Just when you thought that the controversy between NFL football and politics couldn’t get any more intense, the Vice President of the United States did it.

Last Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife attended an NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Indianapolis Colts. Pence, who was the governor of Indiana before becoming the vice president, is supposedly a proud Colts fan. His visit was short-lived, however, as he decided to leave the game after the national anthem.

Pence’s reason for leaving the game: He could not attend a game where national anthem protesting occurred.

Pence would later add through an official White House statement: “…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. 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. I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.”

Kneeling during the national anthem has occurred in the NFL for over a year now, but only among certain players who are protesting social injustice and equal rights. However, the issue reignited Sept. 22, when Donald Trump stated during a rally in Alabama that all NFL players who protest the national anthem should be “fired,” as he referred to them as “sons of b—h’s.”

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—h off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s FIRED,’” Trump said during the rally.

Since then, the past three weeks have been filled with protests from players on all 32 NFL teams in response to the president’s words.

While some may have not been surprised by Pence’s actions and response, many became suspicious that this was something more. Some believe that Pence left the game because he was genuinely disappointed to see players kneeling during the national anthem, while others believe that his actions were a staged political stunt.

I have a quick and simple answer for this argument: Yes, this was a political stunt that was staged by both Pence and Trump.

There are numerous factors to prove this.

First, Pence brought the attention to himself prior to the game. Before leaving, Pence tweeted a photo of him and his wife wearing Colts team merchandise.

Therefore, anyone and everyone not only knew that Pence was there, but that he left shortly after. However, people quickly noticed that both Pence and his wife were not in the same attire as shown in the picture he posted on Twitter.

That is because the picture was taken back in 2014, when Pence and his wife attended a Jaguars-Colts game. Pence had taken and put on Twitter the same photo in 2014, only to reuse it this past Sunday.

If that wasn’t odd enough, it’s interesting that Pence decided to go to the 49ers-Colts game, especially if he knowingly refused to tolerate any players taking a knee during the anthem.

Kneeling during the anthem for protest first began last year with former 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick began his protest on Aug. 14, 2016, when he sat during the anthem of the team’s preseason opener – he went unnoticed until two weeks later. On Aug. 28, he explained his reason for protesting and on Sept. 1, 2016, he starting taking a knee during the anthem. As the season went on, Kaepernick was joined by teammates, and others among the NFL protested alongside him by either taking a knee, sitting or raising a fist in the air.

Players from the 49ers have protested during the anthem in every game of the 2016 season, and they have continued coming into the 2017 season. After Trump’s comments on Sept. 22, approximately 20 players of the 49ers team have taken a knee since.

The 49ers have become one of the most vocal and active teams in the league when it comes to these protests, so for Pence to be surprised and disgusted when it happened last week seems suspicious.

Third, Trump made Pence’s actions even more suspicious when he decided to tweet about it later that day.

This means that Trump not only knew that Pence was going to attend this game, but that Trump had asked him to leave if any players kneeled – it was all planned out.

Additional factors included Pence’s traveling press and travel schedule. According to CNN, Pence’s aids told the traveling press pool to remain inside their van, as the VP may depart early from the football stadium.

On Saturday, Oct. 6, Pence was in Las Vegas as a speaker for an event regarding the mass shooting from earlier this month. He then flew out to Indianapolis, attended the game in the afternoon that Sunday, left after the anthem, then flew back to the West Coast to Los Angeles to attend a private fundraiser only hours later. If Pence stayed at the game, he would have never been able to attend the fundraiser in Los Angeles. The extra travels do not make much sense.

It didn’t take long for people to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Many Americans are upset over the idea that taxpayers’ money went to waste on Pence’s nonsense flight expenses and game tickets, while there are issues in America with greater need that the money could have went to, such as Las Vegas or Puerto Rico.

If this truly was a political publicity stunt as it appears to be, then it was done with the purpose of bringing more attention to the current situation of the national anthem protests. If that was the strategy, then both Trump’s and Pence’s plan worked to perfection – even if it was easy for many to call this a stunt, either way, it drew more attention back to the situation at hand.

Maybe it was done as a distraction from something else happening in the White House? Maybe this is an issue that Trump just can’t leave alone, just like the size of the crowd at his inauguration or “fake news.”

Whatever it may be, this issue isn’t dying down on either side of the NFL or of the White House. What comes tomorrow in the sixth week of NFL football and in the coming weeks should be interesting.