“Mike Tomlin Just Fired Two Players After They Knelt During National Anthem,” reads the post’s caption.
Many commenters took the post seriously.
“Way to go Coach. Let them kneal (sic) in some other Country and see if they have it so good there,” wrote one commenter.
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“Great decision Mr. Tomlin,” wrote another. “No one should be able to get away by insulting our country and our flag.”
The Facebook post was shared more than 6,000 times in two days.
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There is no credible record of the Steelers releasing any players who knelt during the national anthem, and Tomlin previously expressed support for those who kneel. The post was published and shared by a satirical website that includes a disclaimer that states, “Nothing on this page is real.”
The national debate over whether a player should stand or kneel during the anthem was sparked in 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest racial inequality. Since then, NFL players and athletes in other sports who protested in similar ways have at times faced public criticism.
But there are no credible reports that any Steelers players who may have knelt during the anthem were cut recently by the team.
The post contains a link to a longer story with the same headline on its affiliate site Esspots.com. The website describes itself as “your one-stop destination for satirical news and commentary about the United States of America.”
The story is tagged as satire, and the writer’s biography at the bottom of the page describes him as being experienced in “crafting clever and satirical pieces.”
A close examination of the story’s claims also reveals it to be a fabrication.
The story was published on Sept. 6 and claimed to be breaking news, but the Steelers did not make any roster moves that day, according to the team’s running list of transactions. They have not released multiple players on the same day since Aug. 29, five days after their final preseason game. The story was posted four days before the Steelers’ season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
The player shown kneeling in the photo is safety Jordan Dangerfield, who has been out of the NFL since 2020, his final season with the Steelers, according to Pro Football Reference. The photo shows Dangerfield kneeling on Aug. 28, 2020, during a preseason practice – not a game – according to its caption.
It also quotes wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, but he currently plays for the New England Patriots and hasn’t been with the Steelers since 2021, according to NFL.com.
USA TODAY previously debunked a claim that Tomlin banned kneeling during the anthem.
Tomlin previously expressed his support for players who kneel. He said during an online press availability in 2020 that “our position is simple: We’re going to support our players and their willingness to participate in this – whether it’s statements or actions.”
USA TODAY reached out to spokespeople for the Steelers and to the user who shared the post but did not immediately receive responses.
Pittsburgh Steelers, accessed Sept. 8, Transactions
Pittsburgh Steelers, accessed Sept. 8, Schedule
Pittsburgh Steelers, Aug. 28, 2020, PHOTOS: Steelers Camp – Aug. 28
NFL.com, accessed Sept. 8, JuJu Smith-Schuster
Pro Football Reference, accessed Sept. 8, Jordan Dangerfield
USA TODAY, Aug. 26, 2020, On this day four years ago, Colin Kaepernick began his peaceful protests during the national anthem
Associated Press, Aug. 24, Kenny Pickett and the Steelers’ starters cap an impressive preseason in a win over the Falcons
Sports Illustrated, June 24, 2020, Mike Tomlin to Support Steelers Who Protest National Anthem
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