Fact Check

Did Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin Threaten to Fire National Anthem Kneelers?

"Kneel on my field and you're fired on the spot," an article claimed he said.

Published Oct. 26, 2023

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Image Via Getty Images
Claim:
During the 2023 NFL series, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin threatened to fire any player who kneeled during the national anthem.

On Aug. 25, 2023, SpaceXMania published an article positing that Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had "clearly and unequivocally" threatened to fire any player who kneeled during the national anthem "on the spot," sparking a "nationwide debate on patriotism, free speech, and the role of athletes in social and political activism."

Breaking: Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin Warns He Will Fire Players Who Kneel During National Anthem

The NFL has always been a stage for not only breathtaking games but also a place where cultural and political statements have found a home. Perhaps no issue has been as contentious and divisive in recent years as the protests during the national anthem. At the forefront of this discussion is Pittsburgh Steelers’ Head Coach, Mike Tomlin, who has recently warned that he may fire players who kneel during the national anthem. This decision has ignited conversations across the nation, prompting fans, critics, and fellow athletes to weigh in.

This item was not a factual recounting of real-life events. Besides the "satire" label clearly visible at the top of the article, SpaceXMania also has a satire disclaimer available on its website clarifying that its content is sometimes humorous or satirical in nature:

Please note that the article under the category “SATIRE” are satirical in nature and are not meant to be taken seriously. These articles are meant to be humorous and are often entirely made up. We make no claim that the information presented in these articles is true or accurate.

Readers should exercise caution and use their own judgment when reading and interpreting our satirical articles. We take no responsibility for any actions taken based on the content of these articles.

Although the original article was published more than two months ago, on Oct. 25 SpaceXMania posted the article on its Facebook page, quickly racking up 24,000 likes and almost 3,000 comments at the time of this writing.

The piece was also picked up by another satirical website: USA New's.

It's unclear as to why the Steelers coach has been repeatedly targeted with these claims, although in 2020, he reportedly told Associated Press sports writer Will Graves, "It's our intention to support those guys in any statement or action they take as long as it is done so thoughtfully with class and that includes kneeling," according to CBS News.

For background, here is why we sometimes write about satire/humor.

Sources

Breaking: Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin Warns He Will Fire Players Who Kneel During National Anthem. 25 Aug. 2023, https://spacexmania.com/breaking-steelers-coach-mike-tomlin-warns-he-will-fire-players-who-kneel-during-national-anthem12/.

Breaking: Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin Warns He Will Fire Players Who Kneel During National Anthem - USA NEW’S. 26 Oct. 2023, https://web.archive.org/web/20231026151530/https://www.faithhopel.info/breaking-steelers-coach-mike-tomlin-warns-he-will-fire-players-who-kneel-during-national-anthem-2/.

Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/SpaceXElon/posts/pfbid022VC2vvn2KY5trUX52vyD5kSz6stELYkH1ykSVzRuVUXwn71qpHtE4d71EDEdjj2ul. Accessed 26 Oct. 2023.

Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin: ‘It’s Our Intention To Support’ Players Who Make A Statement Against Racial Injustice, ‘And That Includes Kneeling’ - CBS Pittsburgh. 23 June 2020, https://www.cbsnews.com/pittsburgh/news/pittsburgh-steelers-kneeling-national-anthem-police-brutality/.

Taija PerryCook is a Seattle-based journalist who previously worked for the PNW news site Crosscut and the Jordan Times in Amman.