Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
Last October, Vice President Mike Pence very pointedly walked out of an Indianapolis Colts football game to register his disgust with NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. Pence’s action was met with widespread mocking and condemnation by people who saw the whole thing as a stunt.
As it turns out, it was a very expensive stunt.
As the Huffington Post reported on Saturday, the taxpayer tab for Pence’s walkout was in six figures:
Newly released documents from the Department of Homeland Security show more clearly that Pence’s early departure was a stunt — and not a cheap one at that. The Secret Service on Friday released receipts and folios indicating more than $75,000 in expenses, including hotels, travel and additional security measures.
But this is hardly the extent of the bill. As The Washington Post reported in the days after the game, Air Force Two costs approximately $43,000 an hour to operate, which the Post estimated meant a total bill of $250,000 for the flight alone. That’s to say nothing of the cost of local law enforcement, an extra ambulance and extra trauma teams at the local hospitals, with many of these supernumeraries making overtime for Sunday work. None of those expenses was included in the Secret Service’s cost breakdown. All told, it cost $325,000 at the very least for the vice president not to watch a football game.
Furthermore, the dates and times listed in the Post suggest very strongly that, as many had expected, Pence’s walkout was planned in advance for publicity — far from the most useful expenditure of taxpayer money.
The NFL protests, designed to call attention to the killing of unarmed black men by police officers throughout the United States, have drawn the ire of President Donald Trump, who has tried to recast the protests as disrespect against the troops and the flag. A recent Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback at the center of the controversy, has enraged right-wingers, but has earned the company a 31 percent surge in sales.
Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.