Viral image
A photo shows Joe Namath and Al Woodall kneeling on the sideline of a football field during the national anthem.  

Viral image on Sunday, February 10th, 2019 in a Facebook post

Photo of Joe Namath kneeling is real, but he didn't do it during the national anthem

Just as the NFL reached a settlement with former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, an old photograph of football Hall of Famer Joe Namath has entered the social media fray.

On Feb. 10, a Facebook page called Friends of Farrakhan shared a black-and-white picture of Namath kneeling on the sideline of a football field alongside teammate Al Woodall.

Text on top of the photo says, "‘Broadway’ Joe Namath an Al Woodall. All the players used to kneel for the National Anthem. Now do you understand the ignorance of the current administration and his minions?"

"Ponder this. What changed?"

The Facebook page’s caption for the post, "White History 101," seems to suggest that the practice only became a problem when Kaepernick, a black player, started to do it.

The image has been shared over 10,000 times and was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The photo is authentic, but it has nothing to do with protesting and was taken long after the national anthem played. We also checked a number of stories about the national anthem protests and couldn’t find evidence that it was common for players to kneel prior to Kaepernick introducing the practice in 2016.

A reverse-image search led us to the "Lively Morgue" Tumblr page, a blog set up by the New York Times to showcase photographs from the newspaper’s archives.

The picture of Namath was taken by sports photographer Barton Silverman when the New York Jets played the New England Patriots on Nov. 11, 1973. Here’s the caption:

Nov. 11, 1973: "Joe Namath, in furs, and Al Woodall, who came out of yesterday’s game with an injured elbow." Namath stood on the sidelines as his team played, a shoulder injury keeping him out of uniform. The Jets won the game without him.

A recap published the next day said that Woodall came out of the game after straining a tendon in his right elbow early in the second quarter.

The Lively Morgue also provided a shot of the back of the photo, which was covered in clippings, stamps and notes. Though partially concealed, the original caption says the photo was taken in the third quarter, long after the national anthem would have played.

Namath did appear on multiple Fox News shows in recent years and showed support for players’ decision to protest, but has also said the flag needs to be respected, too.

Our ruling

A post sharing a photo of Joe Namath claims he was kneeling during the national anthem and it was something "all players" used to do.

The photo is legitimate, but it was taken sometime during the third quarter after Namath’s teammate, Al Woodall, left the game due to an injury. We also found no evidence that it was regular practice for players to take a knee during the anthem.

It was not a form of protest and was not during the national anthem.

We rate this post False.

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A photo shows Joe Namath and Al Woodall kneeling on the sideline of a football field during the national anthem.
Sunday, February 10, 2019