Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison issued a tweet threatening teammates who were considering kneeling during the national anthem.
Before the start of the 2016 NFL season, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick touched off a nationwide controversy declining to stand during the pre-game playing of the U.S. national anthem, holding that he was engaging in a form of protest that involved refusing to “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” As other players around the league began picking up on Kaepernick’s protest and also “take a knee” during the playing of the anthem, rumor began to spread that entire teams might opt to do the same before games played on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
In conjunction with that event, social media users encountered a tweet supposedly issued by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, threatening teammates who were considering kneeling during playing of the U.S. national anthem:
This tweet does not appear on Harrison’s Twitter feed, however. While it’s possible that he posted this message and then quickly deleted it, that scenario is unlikely. Although this image has been widely shared, no one reproducing it has provided a link back to the original tweet. As well, Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the National Anthem had become a major news story, so if Harrison had truly posted such a message it would have been picked up and reported by multiple media outlets.
The most obvious reason why this message isn’t in Harrison’s Twitter feed is that it’s a fake. While creating fake tweets is an increasingly easy task, some hoaxers still just can’t seem to get it right. A real tweet would display a hashtag such as #EyesonuCK in a blue font, yet the hashtag shown here is rendered in the same color as the rest of the text.
A similar rumor was circulated in August 2017 after Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch remained seated during the National Anthem before a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. A fake news article published on the Lockerdome platform claimed that Harrison had criticized Lynch with a nearly identical quote: “Let me just say, anyone on my team sitting for the Anthem better be in a wheelchair. That’s the only excuse.” But again, this was not a genuine quote from Harrison.