With NFL players like Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bennett choosing not to stand for the U.S. national anthem during preseason games this weekend, the sports media world lit up with all sorts of anthem takes Monday. However, one of the most frequently shared comments, Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison purportedly saying “Let me just say, anyone on my team sitting for the anthem better be in a wheelchair. That’s the only excuse,” didn’t actually happen.
Here’s what this looked like going around Twitter, where even NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick shared it:
Now this is a man I want on my team! Too bad bad we have to sit around and watch disrespectful athletes sit on coolers!! Disgraceful! ?? pic.twitter.com/W8pCsncPQV
— Jeremy Roenick (@Jeremy_Roenick) August 14, 2017
It was far from just Roenick who fell for this, though. Plenty of others were passing these comments around Twitter, Facebook and other forums. But they’re fake. The source there is a LockerDome.com article by someone who goes by “Happy Gilmore.” It says that Harrison made these comments on “KPLX,” which is a Dallas country music radio station. Their Twitter has no mention of a Harrison interview or these comments.
Oh, and Burt Lauten of the Steelers’ PR department tweeted that Harrison didn’t make them:
— Burt Lauten (@SteelersPRBurt) August 14, 2017
Harrison himself responded to this on Instagram, referencing a similar controversy with fake comments of his from last year:
Moreover, “Happy Gilmore” has posted dubious things at LockerDome before. His archive has some things that happened (Lynch sitting for the anthem, Jay Cutler joining the Dolphins), but also Harrison saying “I’d fight Mayweather and McGregor at the same time and win” (which doesn’t seem to be anywhere else), and a piece from last August saying that Harrison was fined $100,000 for Kaepernick sitting for the national anthem (which didn’t happen). That last one seems more like satire (if not actually well done), and maybe the wheelchair comments were meant that way too. In any case, they’re not real and didn’t happen.
This isn’t the first time people have passed around fake Harrison quotes about Kaepernick or other anthem protests. That September 2016 incident led to a whole Snopes story debunking a fake Harrison tweet threatening teammates who sat for the national anthem. Like these wheelchair comments, it didn’t happen.
But Harrison has made some controversial comments, so there may be some confirmation bias at play here with people thinking this is something he might have said. He didn’t say it, though, no matter how many people post on the internet that he did.