Vice President Mike Pence, family, and company were attending an Indianapolis colts game back in his beloved Indiana. During the playing of the National Anthem some of the players for the visiting team, the San Francisco 49ers, took a knee in protest. So, after the Anthem finished, Pence and his companions left the stadium in a demonstration of his own and then took to Twitter to make sure everyone understood why.

Why did Pence walk?

Fox News reports that Pence left a Twitter message shortly after he left the stadium. “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.” A later tweet by President Trump suggested that the gesture had been planned as a show of annoyance at football players who persisted in turning football games into displays of political pique.

Walkout causes furious reaction

CNN reports that some of the players and their supporters reacted negatively soon after the walkout. Rep. Brian Shatz, D-Hawaii noted that the display seemed to have been preplanned and complained about what he considered the expense. 49er Safety Eric Reid added the complaint that the walkout was preplanned PR. Some of the other reaction on social media was equally caustic.

What Pence was trying to accomplish

The weekly protests on the part of some of the professional football players appear to be backfiring.

According to the Daily Wire, the popularity of professional football has collapsed between the end of August to the end of September from 57 percent to 44 percent. Meanwhile, professional baseball’s popularity, where the anthem protests have by and large been absent, has soared. If the protesting players wanted to draw attention to a particular cause, whether it is police brutality or their ire at President Trump, they have failed.

What Pence did was a particularly brilliant display of public theater, aligning himself and the Trump administration on the side of the National Anthem, the American flag, and patriotism. The majority of Americans does not see the weekly show being conducted by football players as a form of legitimate protest, but instead, gestures of disrespect toward the United States by millionaire athletes puffed up with entitlement.

The protesting players have helped the Trump administration burnish its popularity by serving as a foil.

Trump, like Reagan before him, had proven to be a master of media manipulation. To be sure, the president has shown some expressions of pique that have proven to be off-putting. However, he has shown himself capable of taking advantage of media opportunities where he finds them. The football National Anthem protests are one such opportunity.