FACT CHECK: Viral Image Claims To Show Former NFL Players Joe Namath And Al Woodall Kneeling During The National Anthem

Trevor Schakohl | Legal Reporter

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows former NFL players Joe Namath and Al Woodall kneeling during the national anthem. All professional football players used to do this, the post claims.


Verdict: False

The picture shows the two players kneeling during a game that was already in progress. There is no evidence that it was common practice for NFL players to kneel during the anthem before 2016.

Fact Check:

In August 2016, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the pre-game playing of the national anthem in protest of racism against “black people and people of color.” Other NFL players, as well as professional athletes in the NBA and NHL, followed suit and protested their pre-game playing of the national anthem.

President Donald Trump criticized the practice in late September 2016, calling the practice a “total disrespect of our heritage.” He also suggested the protestor-players should be fired for kneeling during the national anthem. (RELATED: Did NFL Linebacker James Harrison Make This Remark About The Anthem Protests?)

The Facebook post, which features an old photograph of Namath and Woodall supposedly kneeling during the national anthem, uses the image to criticize the Trump administration’s reaction to the protests. “All the players used to kneel for the National Anthem,” reads the caption. “Now do you understand the ignorance of the current administration and his minions?”

The image does not, however, show Namath and his teammate kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, contrary to the post’s claim. A reverse image search revealed the photo, which comes from The New York Times, was actually taken in the third quarter of a 1973 game, long after the anthem would have been played, per notes on the back of the original picture.

The Daily Caller found no evidence that it was common for players to kneel prior to Kaepernick doing it in 2016. NFL players only began standing on the field for the pre-game rendition of the national anthem in 2009, according to Axios. Before that, teams stayed in their locker rooms, except during the Super Bowl and after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Namath has expressed support for protestor-players in Fox News interviews but has said that the American flag must be respected as well.

Trevor Schakohl

Legal Reporter
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