On Oct. 24, 2023, SpaceXMania published an article positing that two players for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Stephon Tuitt and Derrick Mathews, had been benched by their coach, Mike Tomlin, for kneeling during the national anthem. The article frames these moves as uncharacteristic, both for Coach Tomlin, who they describe as being "renowned for his clear-cut coaching style and emphasis on team unity," and the two players, who they claim do not usually participate in "such protests." The article read:
Breaking: Pittsburgh Steelers’ Coach Tomlin Benches 2 Anthem Kneelers On The Spot
In a bold move that resonated across sports news outlets, Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin took swift action during their latest matchup. Both Stephon Tuitt and Derrick Mathews, pivotal players for the team, found themselves benched after choosing to kneel during the national anthem.
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.
The site's Facebook account also posted the article, gaining approximately 48,000 likes and more than 2,600 shares at the time of this writing. Comments on the post show an overwhelming amount of support for Coach Tomlin's "decision," with one user writing "not a Steelers fan, but I do support this move. Good job Coach."
Stephon Tuitt, one of the alleged "kneelers," publicly announced on his Twitter (which is now private) in 2020 that he will not kneel for the national anthem, saying: “I'm not kneeling for the flag and screw anybody who have a problem with that." According to Sports Illustrated, this was the first time any Steelers player had ever made an official statement regarding the choice to kneel during the national anthem.
For background, here is why we sometimes write about satire/humor.