Fact Check: Steeler's Coach Mike Tomlin Did NOT Say No More Kneeling On His Field, Did Not Cut Pittsburgh's Last Kneeler AND NFL Mediator Did NOT Side With Him

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: Steeler's Coach Mike Tomlin Did NOT Say No More Kneeling On His Field, Did Not Cut Pittsburgh's Last Kneeler AND NFL Mediator Did NOT Side With Him Football Farce

Did Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin say his football players were not allowed to kneel on the field anymore and then cut the last player to kneel, and did an NFL mediator side with him over the controversy? No, that's not true: All three claims were made on a satire website that has a disclaimer that describes itself as part of a network of "parody, satire, and tomfoolery" and says, "Everything on this website is fiction."

The claim appeared in an article (archived here) published by The Dunning-Kruger Times on July 8, 2022, under the title "Steeler's Mike Tomlin Says No More Kneeling On His Field: 'You're Athlete's Not Activists.'" It opened:

Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has issued a mandate to all of his players for the upcoming season: there will be no kneeling on the field. Tomlin's statement came as a shock to the team, since the Steelers have been the team with the largest number of unpatriotic kneelers since the crisis began in 2017.

This is what the article looked like at the time of writing:

image - 2023-08-22T110143.912.png

(Source: Dunning-Kruger Times website screenshot taken on Tue Aug 22 15:55:12 2023 UTC)

The Dunning-Kruger Times published two more stories, one that claimed, "NFL Mediator Sides With Coach Tomlin: Kneeling Players Can Be Benched or Even Fired," (archived here) and "Coach Tomlin Cuts Pittsburgh's Last Kneeler: 'Go Protest Somewhere Else'" (archived here). Both are not true and clearly satire. All three articles were published in 2022 but gained popularity again as the football season began in August 2023, with other sites picking up the articles but failing to label them as satire.

A Google search of the key words "Pittsburgh Coach Tomlin Cuts Player Who Kneeled" yields zero matching results but does return a 2020 ESPN article with the exact opposite information, titled "Pittsburgh Steelers players who kneel will have Mike Tomlin, organization's support," as well as other news stories of the coach supporting players that took a knee on the field.

The article titled, "Steeler's Mike Tomlin Says No More Kneeling On His Field: 'You're Athlete's Not Activists'" cites "assistant place-kicker coach" Joe Barron:

'He can't stand it,' said assistant place-kicker coach Joe Barron, 'it makes my job tough, but we've managed to get two players to hold snaps without their knees touching the ground,' Barron said it's a good thing you only have to wave for a fair catch these days. Quarterback coach Art Tubolls says Ben Roethlisberger wouldn't have been a fan of the new 'faceplant' technique of taking a knee to end a half -- or the game, but the younger players seem alright with it.

The article titled, "NFL Mediator Sides With Coach Tomlin: Kneeling Players Can Be Benched or Even Fired," has Joe Barron as a judge:

7th District Court Magistrate Joe Barron, who serves as a middleman for all internal league disputes, ruled that Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin can, at his own discretion, bench any football player he wants for any reason.

And the article titled, "Coach Tomlin Cuts Pittsburgh's Last Kneeler: 'Go Protest Somewhere Else,'" has Joe Barron as a player with a modified name:

The last holdout, Defensive End DaJoe Barron, found out the hard way that he doesn't make the rules.

But the real "Joe Barron" is not any of those. He is a now-deceased friend of Christopher Blair, who founded and runs The Dunning-Kruger Times. In 2017, Blair described himself on his Facebook profile as a "paid liberal troll." He's long been known for mocking conservatives, and he is also known for using his friend's name in satirical stories as an homage.

The Dunning-Kruger Times

The Dunning-Kruger Times is a satirical website with an about page (archived here) that has following disclaimer:

About Us

Dunning-Kruger-Times.com is a subsidiary of the 'America's Last Line of Defense' network of parody, satire, and tomfoolery, or as Snopes called it before they lost their war on satire: Junk News

About Satire

Before you complain and decide satire is synonymous with 'comedy':

sat·ire ˈsaˌtī(ə)r noun: The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, OR ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site's pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical. See above if you're still having an issue with that satire thing.

The website is named after the Dunning-Kruger effect, a term from a psychology experiment that describes the phenomenon of being ignorant of one's own ignorance. (That experiment has been disputed by a math professor.)

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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