Since elected in 2016, I have been extremely concerned that Donald Trump might tweet an evacuation order for an NFL stadium. This specific hypothetical reached a dangerous new level on Sunday, October 8, 2017.
Vice President Mike Pence made a “surprise” appearance at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana for a 1 o’clock game between the hometown Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. Roughly twenty members of the 49ers opted to kneel during the national anthem. Based on the team’s past behavior, this was a predictable outcome.
What immediately followed was an outraged Pence, his wife Karen and their Secret Service contingency briskly exiting the stadium. Mike Pence promptly issued a tweet storm and official statement of his own…
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.
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.
I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.
We were proud to stand – with all our @Colts – for our soldiers, our flag, and our National Anthem.
Donald Trump weighed in with the following tweet (also during the game) —
To not believe this was a carefully contrived, public relations/branding maneuver would be the absolute height of political naivete. The actions and deliberate behavior of everyone involved was obviously coordinated.
Trump even verified this himself with a tweet the following morning.
The trip by @VP Pence was long planned. He is receiving great praise for leaving game after the players showed such disrespect for country!
I’m not concerned about the misuse of city and emergency resources or the inconveniencing of NFL fans in a manner resembling Bridgegate. Not to mention the Air Force 2 diversion from Las Vegas to Indianapolis, and then back to California (at an estimated cost of an extra quarter million dollars). I’m worried because it was a concocted, premeditated plan. Trump encouraged an elected official, the Vice President no less, to prematurely exit the stadium as part of a larger publicity stunt.
Did Mike Pence or any members of the Trump administration notify Lucas Oil Stadium security about the possibility of an early exit? I doubt it. That’s a pretty big deal because such an abrupt departure could signal a national emergency of some sort. Would it be unusual to wonder why the Vice President was whisked away? Especially with all eyes in the stadium focused on his section.
But here’s the larger problem. Trump exhibited that he has absolutely no qualms with using the Vice President, his wife and their entire security detail, as a real-time prop in front of a large, confined crowd of 65,612. Even worse, Pence was obviously part of the charade since its inception.
What might happen if Trump gets “caught up in the moment” and veers off script? What if he gets carried away? What if he tweets the following…
I’m calling on all Colts fans to stand up for our beautiful flag, our wonderful soldiers and our great country…
… and leave their seats and head to the concourses. Our nation will learn to respect the stars and stripes!
Is it unreasonable to think that this, or something like this, could happen?
Now why would this represent a problem? Well, because if a scenario like this unfolded, it would demonstrate a substantive attempt to exploit and eviscerate the standards which govern the stadium’s emergency evacuation protocol. If such a scenario doesn’t qualify as an act of felonious, wanton endangerment, I’m not sure what would. It would also violate the freedom of assembly provisions offered by the First Amendment.
Simply stated, Donald Trump is not allowed to evacuate Lucas Oil Stadium. Neither is the mayor of Indianapolis, the chief of police or anyone else in a position of relevant authority. There’s only one individual with the authority to issue a stadium evac order. And that’s their incident commander, Troy Glendenning whose official title is Director of Facilities and Grounds. If you have any doubt about this, give him a call (1-800-805-2658). If he accepts your phone call (he won’t), he’ll verify everything I just said.
Much like airports, nuclear facilities and the nearby Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Lucas Oil Stadium, and all NFL stadiums for that matter, are designated as tier 1 security infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security. Donald Trump has surely been notified of this. To treat the venue as a political photo-op and orchestrate a pre-planned evacuation demonstrates either blatant ignorance or outright contempt. More important, it sets a very dangerous precedent.
Trump’s “passion” for the flag might just end up getting innocent civilians killed. Hey, just don’t say I didn’t warn ya.