A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center
FactCheck.org is celebrating 15 years of holding politicians accountable.

Weak Link in NFL Protest Story


Q: Has George Soros been paying NFL players to protest?

A: No. A story making that claim offers no evidence to support it.

FULL ANSWER

An inaccurate story that was first published in October 2017 — shortly after President Donald Trump made controversial comments about professional football players who kneel during the national anthem — has been reposted now that the issue is in the news again.

The subject was reignited in May when all 32 National Football League team owners voted to require players on the field to stand during the anthem.

The 2016 story that was reposted June 5 on blingnews.com, and shared on Facebook, features a picture of Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneeling under the headline: “Guess Who The NFL’s Being FUNDED By To ‘Resist Trump’ — So DISGUSTING.”

The picture is also from 2016, the same year that Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, touched off the movement when he and Reid protested racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem at a preseason game.

The story goes on to claim that “the guy bankrolling them” is the liberal billionaire George Soros. The problem is, it’s not actually true.

The story’s supposed “evidence” to support the claim doesn’t show any money flowing to NFL players from Soros, who is often cast as the antagonist in false stories online.

Instead, it relies on a report that said Soros’ philanthropic network, Open Society Foundations, and the NFL players union, the NFL Players Association, each have donated money to the same charity, the Center for Community Change Action. The charity describes its mission as building the “power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color.”

It’s true that in the 2015 fiscal year, the NFLPA gave $5,000 to CCCA, according to the NFLPA’s tax filings. It’s also true that the Open Society Foundations gave $525,000 to CCCA, according to a spokesman for the Open Society Foundations.

But the CCCA has had nothing to do with NFL players demonstrating during the national anthem, the organization’s spokesman, Jeff Parcher, told us.

“What’s funny about the story,” he said, is that it points to the opposite direction the money would have to flow to show that the players were paid to demonstrate. The players union paid CCCA, not the other way around.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories shared on the social media network.

Sources

Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Answering NFL National Anthem Questions.” FactCheck.org. 5 Oct 2017.

Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Tackling Fake Football Stories.” FactCheck.org. 29 Sep 2017.

Goodell, Roger. Statement on the NFL’s anthem policy. NFL.com. 23 May 2018.

Guess Who The NFL’s Being FUNDED By To ‘Resist Trump.'” BlingNews.com. 5 Jun 2018.

National Football League Players Association. IRS Form 990, 2015. ProPublica.org. Accessed 8 Jun 2018.

Parcher, Jeff. Spokesman, Center for Community Change Action. Interview with FactCheck.org. 11 Jun 2018.