Claim: Multiple social media rumors circulated on Back to the Future Day (21 October 2015): that Michael J. Fox was arrested for “insider sports betting,” that Nike delivered a pair of self-tying sneakers, and that the Biff Tannen character was based on Donald Trump.
Origins: On 21 October 2015, social media users marked what informally came to be known as “Back to the Future Day” — the then-distant date to which Michael J. Fox (as Marty McFly) traveled in the 1987 film Back to the Future II.
Amid memes, retrospective articles, and a multi-day trending streak of chatter about Marty McFly’s return, several rumors about the Back to the Future (BTTF) trilogy, its legacy, and its stars circulated via social media. Given the general celebratory mood and heightened interest, some of those claims spread further and faster than they might have on any other day:
Claim: Actor Michael J. Fox was arrested on charges of “insider sports betting.”
On 21 October 2015, the web site Stubhill News published an article titled “Breaking News: Michael J Fox Arrested for Insider Sports Betting”:
Michael J Fox was arrested Wednesday morning in relation to insider sports betting on DraftKings.
Fox aroused suspicion after achieving a statistically-impossible, perfect record on the site under the username NoChicken.
Authorities found an unusually worn copy of a sports almanac which was just recently printed and which has markings cataloging winning bets Fox has placed since the late 80’s.
“The operating theory is that the Back to the Future films were really documentaries from an original, prime timeline,” said NASA astrophysicist Barry Manilow. “The implications are heavy. It is suspected that we are living in an alternate 2015, as there are no flying cars and there are only four Jaws movies. We can only assume that we are forever stunted as a society. The amount of lives lost due to our lack of progress in technology and medicine is unfathomable. Worst of all, instead of hoverboards, this sad reality is limited to the Swagway.”
Most readers managed to pick out the multiple humorous references contained therein: the username “NoChicken,” the use of a “sports almanac” (both nods to BTTF), and “astrophysicist Barry Manilow.” Moreover, a disclaimer on Stubhill News advises viewers:
If you think Stubhill News is real news, you’re going to have a bad time.