False claims of NFL referee investigation started as satire

False claims of NFL referee investigation started as satire

CLAIM: The NFL is investigating AFC championship referee Ronald Torbert because his son made a big bet on the Kansas City Chiefs before they beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

AP ASSESSMENT: False. This claim comes from a parody Twitter account, and elements of the post clearly indicate that it is fiction. An NFL spokesperson confirmed this.

THE FACTS: Some Bengals fans weren’t happy with the decisions made in the AFC Championship Game, which sent the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.

But it’s not true that the NFL is investigating the referee who made the calls, despite a misleading post on social media this week.

A Twitter post making the claim on Tuesday came from a satirical account featuring a character from the comedy film ‘Anchorman’ – details lost on some social media users who shared the post as real on Wednesday.

“BREAKING: AFC Championship Game NFL Referee-in-Chief Ronald Torbert commenting on the NFL’s investigation into a family member placing a bet on the game this morning,” reads the message. He then quotes Torbert saying, “I didn’t know my son had placed a big bet on the Chiefs until the end of the game.”

The message claims that Torbert made the comments on a radio station called “101.4 ‘The Juice'”, which does not exist. An Internet search for the station brings up several juices sold in 101.4 fluid ounce quantities.

The account that posted it identifies itself as a “parody/satirical sports anchor at KVWN sports news”, referring to a fictional news station in the film.

Yet social media users spread the fake quote without that context on Facebook and Twitter, attributing it to an explanation for why umpires made multiple appeals in favor of Kansas City on Sunday night. In some cases, the post was shared as a screenshot, without the satirical disclaimer on the Twitter account.

There is no evidence that such an investigation is ongoing. Reached for comment, an NFL spokesperson pointed to the fact that the account spreading the claim identified itself as satire.


This is part of AP’s efforts to combat widely shared misinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

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