Franklin Graham offers 'three cheers' for Mike Pence's NFL walkout

Franklin Graham is praising Mike Pence's publicity stunt that saw the Vice President and his wife walk out of an NFL game after several players knelt during the national anthem in silent protest at police violence against black people.

A prominent evangelical backer of Donald Trump's administration and member of the president's nominal evangelical advisory council, Graham offered 'three cheers' for Pence, who himself is a staunch evangelical.

Twitter/Notre DameVice President Mike Pence flew on taxpayers money from Nevada to Indianapolis then back to California for the publicity stunt.

Pence flew across America to see the game featuring the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers, whose then-quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, began the kneeling protests which have developed into a widespread statement of opposition to police brutality. Several of the players have knelt regularly during the anthem with at least one doing so every week since the start of the season.

Pence tweeted before the game a photo of his wife and himself taken from 2014, saying he was looking forward to the game, adding to speculation the whole event was a stunt since Pence knew the protests would take place.

His press pool were told beforehand Pence might be making an early escape, according to the BBC's Anthony Zurcher, and when several players knelt during the anthem, Pence and wife left.

He almost immediately released a statement saying he 'will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem'.

He added: '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.'

Trump later praised Pence's actions, saying he had asked him to do so.

Graham also praised Pence's actions and posted on Facebook: 'I appreciate that our Vice President has a high standard, and I wish the NFL owners would follow his example.'

Americans are split on the issue according to a poll by PRRI but Trump's fuelling of the controversy has led to several stars joining the #TakeAKnee protest.