FACT CHECK: Did Mike Tomlin Tell His Players They Are Athletes And ‘Not Activists’?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told his players they are athletes and “not activists” in reference to the controversy surrounding kneeling for the national anthem.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence Tomlin made such a remark. A spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Steelers denied the claim.

Fact Check: 

Kneeling during the national anthem first became a subject of national debate in 2016 after San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during a National Football League preseason game to protest racial injustice and police brutality, according to Britannica. Since then, numerous professional athletes have taken to kneeling during the national anthem.

The Facebook image, shared over 1,700 times, claims Tomlin said there would be “no more” kneeling on his field. ‘You’re ahtlete’s (sic) not activists,” Tomlin allegedly said..The image also claims the head coach said he was “tired of hating America and not being able to stand and recognize a song for 2 minutes once a week,” an apparent reference to the national anthem.

There is no evidence Tomlin has made such remarks. Check Your Fact searched the Steelers website and the organization’s social media accounts as well as Tomlin’s verified Twitter account but found nothing resembling those comments. There are likewise no credible news reports suggesting the Steelers coach made those remarks.

“I am not sure what this is or where it came from but it is inaccurate,” said Steelers Senior Director for Communications Burt Lauten in an email to Check Your Fact. (RELATED: Did Tim Tebow Kneel During The National Anthem To Protest Abortion?)

The viral claim appears to stem from an article published by the Dunning-Kruger Times, a satirical website. The Dunning-Kruger Times discloses on its website that it is a “subsidiary of the ‘America’s Last Line of Defense’ network of parody, satire, and tomfoolery.” The image shared on Facebook does not include such a disclaimer.

Tomlin has commented on players kneeling for the national anthem in the past. In 2020, he said the team and organization would support players who decide to kneel for the national anthem, according to ESPN.

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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