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Mike Pence Picked a Losing Fight With Black Dads

The failed publicity stunt once again tried to paint anyone who kneels as a troublemaker.

Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence manufactured a media narrative when he very publicly announced that he had left the Colts-49ers game in Indianapolis after players were knelt during the anthem. Because Pence flew into Indianapolis for the game on his way to Los Angeles and told his staff it would be a short stay, there’s plenty of reason to believe he went to Lucas Oil Stadium to pick a fight. But with whom? Well, the NFL’s #takeaknee protesters to be sure, but, more specifically than that, with the two black fathers that seem to be driving the 49ers post-Kaepernick activism, Eric Reid and NaVorro Bowman.

Pence was the governor of Indiana from 2013-2017, so it’s natural for him to be a fan of the Colts. But it’s not a coincidence that he chose to show up to a game against the 49ers, the team that has become almost synonymous with the controversial league-wide protest. Colin Kaepernick was a 49er for his entire six seasons in the NFL and the Trump administration has made it clear that they do not stand for kneeling. The 49ers are also from San Francisco, which is a famously blue area from a famously blue state, which translates to easy political points and little blowback.

But this isn’t just some politician crying outrage to rile up their base. This is the Vice President of the United States condemning the players trying to create awareness of social injustice, particularly around policing. And it takes a extreme cynicism and or outright ignorance to understand either Reid’s or Bowman’s decision to protest in other terms. We know what these protests are about because the protesters have repeatedly and very respectfully explained themselves. In this case, both players are outspoken black fathers who have said that will not back down until black people, and specifically, children, are no longer being killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

This year, 22 percent of people shot by police have been black, despite the fact that they only make up 13 percent of the population. Of the 21 children shot by police this year, ten have been black, six have been latinx, and five have been white. Players like Reid and Bowman are kneeling to protest both the disparity and the fact that children are being killed at all. The idea that a posturing politicians (specifically the one who tried and failed to stare down North Korea) is going to make them stand up is laughable. Love tend to sack sanctimony in the backfield.

NaVorro Bowman runs a charity for at-risk youth. Eric Reid raises money to fight Sickle Cell Anemia. They need Pence’s morality lessons about as much as they need his workout tips.

As long as such tragedy continues, Reid, Bowman, and a number players all across the league will, regardless any further publicity stunts, kneel. As Reid said in his op-ed in The New York Times, “I want to be a man my children and children’s children can be proud of, someone who faced adversity and tried to make a positive impact on the world, a person who, 50 years from now, is remembered for standing for what was right, even though it was not the popular or easy choice.”