As national anthem demonstrations swept across NFL stadiums this fall, Indianapolis became the scene of one of the highest-profile responses when Vice President Mike Pence and his wife walked out at the direction of President Donald Trump after San Francisco 49ers players staged their protest.
Now an Indiana lawmaker wants to make sure that any Colts fans who were offended by the demonstrations, which began in the summer of 2016 when Colin Kaepernick took a knee to raise awareness of social injustice and police brutality, will get their money back. Republican State Rep. Milo Smith has proposed a bill that is targeted at demonstrations by Colts players and not at those by the visiting teams.
"To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it's not respecting the national anthem or our country," Smith said (via the Indy Star). "Our government isn't perfect, but it's still the best country in the world and I think we need to be respectful of it."
Smith and his daughter attended the Colts' Sept. 24 game against the Cleveland Browns when Colts players, like many across the country, took a knee and, although they did not leave the game, he acknowledged that "it didn't sit right with me."
The Colts and the NFL have had no comment on the proposal.
While Pence was governor of Indiana, Smith had a high-profile role in 2014 when a "religious freedom" ban on same-sex marriage made its way through the legislature just before the NCAA's men's Final Four was to be held in Indianapolis. Just days after it was passed, it came under fire, particularly from the state's pro sports teams and from one very prominent employer because it would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gay patrons based on religious grounds.
The NCAA, which has its headquarters in Indianapolis, was on the forefront of protesters when the law was passed with President Mark Emmert issuing a reminder that the organization wants its neutral-site championships to take place in an atmosphere of inclusion. He made his point in no uncertain terms and the law later was modified.
Pence drew attention to the anthem demonstrations with his highly visible walkout after the national anthem on Oct. 8. The plan had called for Pence to attend the game at which Peyton Manning was honored and his number retired, a gala celebration of the former Colts quarterback's contributions to Pence's home state. He and his wife, wearing a Manning No. 18 jersey, left Lucas Oil Stadium after the anthem, following instructions from Trump after a number of 49ers players took a knee during the anthem.
Pence tweeted: "I left today's Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our national anthem."
Two weeks ago, a New Orleans Saints season-ticket holder filed a lawsuit over anthem demonstrations, saying that the actions of players kept him and his family from enjoying the game. In the lawsuit, filed in the 24th Judicial Court in Jefferson Parish, Lee Dragna is seeking a refund for his tickets and attorney's fees.
"If petitioner had known that Saints football players would use Saints football games as a platform for protests," the lawsuit states, "he would not have purchased the Saints season tickets."