John Madden isn’t dead, but anyone who stumbled onto Twitter or Facebook this week may have been fooled into thinking he was.
A fake news story claiming that the Pro Football Hall of Famer had died made the rounds, fooling many football fans into sharing the story and their condolences.
The John Madden death rumor was traced back to a story originally published on the site Empire Sports. The story claimed that paramedics responded to Madden’s California home to find him “sitting upright on his couch with a microphone in his hand.”
As if the wording wasn’t enough to tip off readers that the story was fake, it later contained a quote from EA Sports claiming that they planned to cash in on Madden’s death by issuing a special edition of the Madden football game series.
“There’s no better way for us to pay tribute to John than to make a ton of money off his death,” the story quoted EA Sports representative Joseph Goldsmith. “We’ve already signed a contract with Frank Caliendo to continue to do the voice for the game, and at half the price that’s great news for us.”
Anyone who needed more convincing could have done some poking around the site, which appears to have peaked (and possibly died) in 2014. The site openly claims that it is satire, and that is clear from the stories. In a link at the bottom of the story about John Madden’s alleged death is another story that reads, “Nike Researching Way To Extract And Sell Michael Jordan’s DNA.”
The John Madden death hoax may have gained some steam thanks to some recent health problems for the legendary coach and announcer. In December, Madden underwent open-heart surgery to repair some blockages.
The surgery went well and Madden went on to make a full recovery. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell even said that Madden was anxious to get back to work, wanting to return to his duties as co-chair of the NFL player safety advisory panel.
“I spoke to John yesterday,” Goodell said in a statement released by the league (via USA Today).
“He sounds great, but is frustrated about being on injured reserve for the time being. He is anxious to return to action soon doing the important work he does for our game. He’s a tremendous fountain of ideas and we can’t wait to get him back. We are all pleased to know that John’s procedure was successful and wish him a speedy recovery.”
Though he will be turning 80 this year, John Madden has remained very active in and around the NFL. He often serves as a de facto league spokesperson and its elder statesman.
John Madden is far from the only celebrity to be the victim of a death hoax. In the past four or five years, it’s become something of a sport for people on the internet to craft fake stories about celebrities’ deaths and see if they can go viral.
Adam Sandler is the latest victim, with rumors circulating last week that the actor had been found dead in his home, the victim of an apparent suicide. The mistake-riddled story was published on a site called Linkbeef, which claimed that Marin County Police found Adam Sandler’s body inside his home.
“Sandler had recently returned to a rehabilitation centre to ‘fine-tune’ his sobriety, the Los Angeles Times reported in July.
“The local Sheriff’s office said Sandler was found unconscious and not breathing at his home near Tiburon, north of San Francisco.
“‘At this time, the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made,’ police said in a statement.”
It was actually the second time in just a few months that the same story has gone viral, but this time there may be a reason. Last week’s death hoax coincided with the release of a trailer for Sandler’s new project, The D0-Over, in which his character fakes his own death.
For his part, the very much alive John Madden hasn’t commented on the death hoax making the rounds on the internet.
[Picture by Jason Miller/Getty Images]