At President Donald Trump’s instruction, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game in his home state on Sunday after players from the San Francisco 49ers knelt during the National Anthem before their game versus the Indianapolis Colts.
The episode drew scrutiny as an expensive political stunt, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in flights alone, but drew praise from Trump, who hailed Pence’s actions on Twitter.
So how did the walk-out come to be? Here’s the timeline:
April 21 – NFL announces its regular season schedule, including an October 8 game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. Some players for the 49ers, led by then-quarterback Colin Kaepernick, began kneeling during the anthem last season to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
May 9 – The Colts announce a statue of Peyton Manning, the longtime Indianapolis quarterback, will be unveiled outside Lucas Oil Stadium on October 8. As a former Indiana governor, Pence has long expressed his appreciation for Manning.
Sept. 23 – Trump criticizes players who kneel during the National Anthem during a campaign stop in Alabama. He spends the rest of the weekend fueling the controversy on Twitter and speaking to team owners.
Sept. 25 – Pence offers support for Trump’s views – which had sparked harsh backlash – during his own campaign rally in Alabama: “We’ve all got a right to our opinions, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask the players in the National Football League to stand for our National Anthem.”
Unknown – The Vice President’s office, in coordination with the White House, makes plans for Pence to attend the Colts-49ers game. A senior Pence aide said on Sunday planning for the trip had been in the works for “several weeks.” Law enforcement sources said the trip had been on their radar for a while.
Friday, Oct. 6 – As Pence visits storm-damaged Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, his office announces the Vice President’s weekend itinerary: a visit to Las Vegas after the mass shooting there, followed by the trip to Indianapolis to watch the game and participate in the Manning celebration.
Unknown – Trump and Pence discuss the Colts-49ers game and the prospects a protest could arise. “They agreed if a protest took place he would leave,” a White House official said. It’s unclear when their conversation took place. White House officials have yet to specify the timing of this discussion when asked by CNN.
Saturday, Oct. 7 – Pence flies from Joint Base Andrews, outside Washington, to Las Vegas, where he speaks at a prayer walk for victims of the mass shooting. He departs Las Vegas around 5:45 p.m. ET and lands in Indianapolis just past 9 p.m. ET. He spends the night in a newly renovated Marriott downtown.
Sunday, Oct. 8
11:27 a.m. ET – Pence tweets a 2014 photo of himself and wife Karen in Colts gear, writing: “Looking forward to cheering for our @Colts & honoring the great career of #18 Peyton Manning at @LucasOilStadium today. Go Colts!”
11:56 a.m. ET – Pence departs his hotel in a motorcade en route Lucas Oil Stadium. Second lady Karen Pence, aides, Secret Service, and a traveling press pool accompany him. The stadium is just around the corner from the Marriott, and Pence arrives a few minutes later, passing crowds of Colts fans in his armored vehicle along the route.
12 p.m. ET hour – Aides to the Vice President tell the traveling press pool they will remain inside their van, since Pence may depart early from the football stadium.
12 p.m. ET hour – Pence meets privately with Manning inside the stadium.
12:42 p.m. ET – The traveling pool reporter indicates he hasn’t been given access to the stadium (sometimes when covering politicians at sporting events, the traveling press isn’t permitted to shoot footage inside since coverage of those events is typically exclusive to a particular television network).
Approx. 12:55 p.m. ET – The National Anthem is played inside Lucas Oil Stadium, during which some players for the 49ers kneel. Pence, wearing a blue blazer, stands and places his hand on his heart, according to a photo he later tweeted. Mrs. Pence, wearing a Colts jersey, does the same. The Pences appeared to be sitting in a box on the upper level of the stadium.
1:08 p.m. ET – Pence tweets that he left the game after some players kneeled: “I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”
1:10 p.m. ET – Pence’s motorcade departs Lucas Oil Stadium to retrace earlier route back to the Marriott. The traveling pool reporter says the first indication that Pence was leaving the game early came in Pence’s tweet.
1:21 p.m. ET – Pence begins a Twitter thread explaining his decision to leave the game early: “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.”
1:24 p.m. ET – Pence tweets an image of his full statement laid out on a White House-designed template.
1:32 p.m. ET – The White House emails Pence’s full statement to reporters.
1:42 p.m. ET – Pence tweets photo of himself and Mrs. Pence standing during the National Anthem.
1:54 p.m. ET – Pence and his entourage depart the Marriott en route the Indianapolis airport.
2:16 p.m. ET – President Trump, writing from the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, praises Pence’s decision on Twitter and reveals he requested Pence leave early: “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.”
2:25 p.m. ET – Air Force Two is wheels up to Los Angeles. On the flight, the senior Pence aide offers the following statement to the traveling pool reporter:
“Attending the Colts game celebrating Peyton Manning was planned and scheduled for several weeks. The Vice President added a last minute trip to speak at the unity prayer walk in Las Vegas and pay respects to those who lost their lives. He wanted to keep his commitment to attend the Colts game hoping all the players would stand for the National Anthem. All the Colts players did stand for the National Anthem, but several 49ers did not. As he had discussed with the President, when several 49ers players disrespected the flag and the Nation Anthem, the Vice President decided to leave the game.”
3:00 p.m. ET – Pence changes the cover photo on his Twitter page to the image of him and his wife standing during the National Anthem at the Colts game.
7:02 p.m. ET – Pence lands in Los Angeles to attend a private fundraiser in Beverly Hills. He also makes a stop at the home of his daughter Charlotte, who recently moved to the Los Angeles area. Pence remained overnight at a hotel near the Los Angeles airport.
10:55 p.m. ET – Amid questions about the cost of his trip to Indianapolis, Pence’s office releases a statement explaining he would have returned to Washington if he hadn’t been attending the Colts game in Indiana:
“The Vice President was not going to miss the Las Vegas memorial prayer walk on Saturday, which he was honored to attend on behalf of President Trump. If the Vice President did not go to Indiana for the Colts game, he would have flown back to D.C. for the evening – which means flying directly over Indiana. Instead, he made a shorter trip to Indiana for a game that was on his schedule for several weeks.”
Monday, Oct. 9
7:05 a.m. ET – From the White House, Trump dispatches another tweet about the matter, writing: “The trip by @VP Pence was long planned. He is receiving great praise for leaving game after the players showed such disrespect for country!”