Vice President Mike Pence made a trip to Indianapolis Sunday to attend a football game between the Colts and the San Francisco 49ers.

Pence made only a brief appearance before leaving the stadium when players for the 49ers took a knee in protest of racial injustice during the national anthem.

“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,” Pence tweeted after leaving the game.

President Donald Trump later tweeted that he asked Pence to leave the game if any players kneeled during the anthem.

The problem is that every single person in the stadium knew players would be kneeling during the national anthem, and if Pence planned to leave the stadium immediately if any players did kneel, he could have just not made the trip.

Eric Reid is one of the two original players to take a knee. It was Reid in part that led to players taking a knee rather than sitting on the bench during the anthem as he wanted to make a statement about racism while also respecting those that have served in the military.

“After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest,” Reid wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times in September. “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”

For Pence to act as if there was any surprise that Reid decided to kneel along the sideline Sunday is either dishonest or ignorant.

CNN estimated the cost for Pence to fly from Las Vegas to Indianapolis Saturday at about $100,000. Leaving Indianapolis Sunday to fly to Los Angeles at about another $143,500.

Not including the likely cost of increased security at the game because of the vice president’s presence, Pence’s public relations move carried a hefty price tag.

Pence’s office has claimed that if the vice president didn’t fly to Indianapolis Saturday that he would have made an even longer trip to Washington, D.C., before turning around and flying to California Sunday.

If that’s true, then it presents some real questions in regard to planning as anyone who gives even a moments thought can see the flaw in flying from Nevada back to the east coast, only to immediately turn around and fly to California the next day.

What’s clear is that Trump decided to take a stand against the NFL and its players because of players protesting during the national anthem.

Someone made the decision to use Pence’s planned appearance at Sunday’s Colts game to fan the flame for those that support Trump’s views on the protests.

Anyone who wants to be upset about NFL players kneeling during the anthem has every right to be upset. Players taking a knee also have every right to do so.

That’s the way this country works. Citizens are free to express themselves in the way they see fit.

But while Pence is well within his right to fly to the game and then walk out just as quickly as he walked in, it’s dishonest to pretend the decision was anything other than a premeditated public relations move on the taxpayer dime.

“It’s really disheartening when ... the vice president of the United States is trying to confuse the message that we’re trying to put out there,” Reid said after the game. “This is about systemic oppression that has been rampant in this country decades upon decades. And I will continue to 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.”

Jonathan Herrmann is news editor of the News-Herald. He can be contacted at 865-986-6581 or jonathan.herrmann@news-herald.net.