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Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin September 29, 2017

Fake photo shows Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett burning American flag

A photograph plastered on a Facebook page that allegedly supports President Donald Trump purported to show an NFL player burning an American flag in the locker room, but it has very clearly been manipulated.

An image posted on the "Vets for Trump" Facebook page on Sept. 28, 2017, showed Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett shirtless and holding a United States flag that has been set ablaze. Teammates, coaches and staff appear to be cheering Bennett on in the background.

"#Seattleseahawks - no more NFL," the caption on the post read.

Commenters were outraged by the photo, with one person declaring "burning the Flag that I shed my blood to honor would be just cause to whack you upside your ignorant disrespectful head." Another ironically wrote that he "couldn't even in good conscious photo shop such a picture."

The Vets for Trump Facebook page didn’t accept messages or list phone or email information. It listed as contact information the website, a domain registered to someone named Vladimir Lemets.  

Trump targeted the NFL after a handful of players had decided to kneel during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, as a protest against racism in America. Trump demanded on Twitter that NFL players "stop disrespecting our Flag & Country" by kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism in America. Trump had said players should be fired if they refused to stand.

More than 200 players across the league chose not to stand the following weekend to show their opposition to Trump’s criticism. Both the Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans chose not to stand on the field for the national anthem during their Sept. 24 game in Nashville (all but one member of the Pittsburgh Steelers chose not stand on the sideline for the song, either).

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But while the Seahawks banded together in protest, Bennett did not burn a flag in the locker room that day.

Looking at the photo more closely, it’s obvious that the flag has been Photoshopped into the image. The lighting is all wrong and even though the flag is ablaze in an enclosed space, it doesn’t appear to be giving off smoke.

The real proof that the image is fake is that it is actually close to two years old, at least. It appeared in a tweet from the Seahawks on Jan. 3, 2016, and is credited to Rob Mar on the team’s website.

For the record, Bennett did speak out on the Trump controversy. He said at a CNN town hall event on Sept. 27 that the protests were "about treating people like human beings."

"The changes start with the heart," he said. "This is not a violent protest. This is a peaceful protest. We are challenging people spiritually, not physically, spiritually to change the way you have been doing. Change the culture."

Trump’s feud has led to other fake claims beyond this one. We previously checked claims that the NFL fined Steelers players $1 million each and that Fox Sports refused to broadcast games "until players respect the flag." We rated both Pants On Fire!

That’s the only thing burning about this claim, too. For taking an old photo and grossly misrepresenting its content, we rate it Pants On Fire!

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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Pants on Fire
Says a photograph shows Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett burning the United States flag.
in a Facebook post
Thursday, September 28, 2017

Our Sources

Vets for Trump Facebook page, Michael Bennett photo, Sept. 28, 2017

Twitter, Seattle Seahawks tweet, Jan. 3, 2016

Associated Press, "The Latest: More than 200 NFL players don't stand for anthem," Sept. 24, 2017

PunditFact, "Fox still broadcast NFL games after protests, despite fake news claims," Sept. 25, 2017

PunditFact, "NFL’s Goodell didn't say he would fine Steelers players $1 million each for skipping national anthem," Sept. 25, 2017

CNN, "NFL star Michael Bennett challenges Americans to treat each other better," Sept. 28, 2017, photo gallery, accessed Sept. 29, 2017

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Fake photo shows Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett burning American flag

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