Fact Check

Did NFL Referees Eject 4 Players for Kneeling During National Anthem?

The players were removed for “unsportsmanlike conduct,” an article claimed.

Published Oct. 19, 2023

 ( Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images
Claim:
During the 2023 NFL season, referees ejected four NFL players from a game for kneeling during the national anthem.

On Oct. 16, 2023, during the sixth week of the NFL season, SpaceXMania published an article positing that four NFL players had been ejected from a game because they supposedly took a knee during the national anthem. The article described the act as "unsportsmanlike conduct."

The article briefly explained the origins of the protest, which began with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem in 2016 to call attention to racism in America. The story did not identify the alleged players who were supposedly disqualified, nor the game at which the purported ejections occurred. The article read:

Breaking: NFL Referees Eject 4 NFL Players For Kneeling During National Anthem

In an unprecedented move, four NFL players were ejected from their respective games for taking a knee during the National Anthem. The league, which has been navigating the tumultuous waters of players using their platform to protest social and racial injustices, now finds itself at another crossroads.

This item was not a factual recounting of real-life events. The article originated with a website that describes its output as being humorous or satirical in nature. In addition to a "SATIRE" label above the article's headline, SpaceXMania included the following disclaimer for readers:

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.

(Image via SpaceXMania/Facebook)

One day after the article published, SpaceXMania posted the story on its Facebook profile, and that post quickly gained popularity, racking up roughly 76,000 likes and 7,500 shares, as of this writing. Some comments suggested that readers believed the story to be real, with several expressing support for the referees in the fictional story. "Great job. I agree and stand with you 100%," one user wrote.

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

Sources

Breaking: NFL Referees Eject 4 NFL Players For Kneeling During National Anthem. 16 Oct. 2023, https://spacexmania.com/breaking-nfl-referees-eject-4-nfl-players-for-kneeling-during-national-anthem/.

‘Colin Kaepernick’. Wikipedia, 3 Oct. 2023. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Colin_Kaepernick&oldid=1178346472.

Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/SpaceXElon/posts/pfbid026uwQgaUxqqW9ezXMozrBNxV7Ph6MzHDrrcxujqEAZMqUbiXUgUmZdzj3Nerna8H4l. Accessed 18 Oct. 2023.

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