After Buffalo Bills safety and Pennsylvania native Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during a game on Monday night, there’s been an outpouring of love and support coming from all over — his home state and its largest city included.
The well-wishes from Philly and beyond have come alongside criticism of the NFL’s handling of the incident’s immediate aftermath.
Hamlin on Wednesday morning remained in critical condition in the ICU, though there has been some improvement in his breathing, his uncle told CNN. The 24-year-old went into cardiac arrest during the first quarter of a Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. After tackling a Bengals player, he stood up and collapsed on the field almost immediately. Medics gave him CPR, which restarted his heart, and an ambulance took him to a nearby hospital.
Many NFL teams, including the Eagles, canceled their media availability on Tuesday out of respect for Hamlin. Teams across the league have also updated their profile pictures on Twitter to encourage followers to pray for the player.
People across the nation have been showing their support for Hamlin by donating to a GoFundMe he started in 2020 to raise money for a toy drive in his hometown. By 4 p.m. on Tuesday, it had accumulated over $4.5 million in donations.
The Philadelphia Union’s president’s brother is the Bills’ head coach, and the MLS team on Tuesday updated its profile picture to a logo in the Bills’ team colors that includes the number 3, Hamlins’ jersey number.
Hamlin, in his second season with the Bills, has personal connections with a few current Eagles players.
Originally from McKees Rocks in Western Pennsylvania, he was a star football player at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, where he faced off a few times against Eagles running back Miles Sanders.
After high school, Hamlin chose to stay close to his family and attend the University of Pittsburgh. At Pitt, he played alongside Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox.
Multiple Eagles, Sanders and Maddox included, quickly expressed concern for Hamlin and hopes that he’ll recover.
“??? it’s bigger than the game!” Birds offensive tackle Lane Johnson wrote on Twitter Monday evening.
“Love you 3, praying for you,” Maddox tweeted. Sanders posted a plea for people to stop sharing footage of Hamlin’s collapse.
The NFL temporarily suspended Monday’s Bills/Bengals game as the medical emergency unfolded, and then made the decision to postpone it about an hour later. The league announced Tuesday that the game wouldn’t happen anytime this week, and it hasn’t decided yet whether it will resume at all.
Before the NFL had made the call to postpone the game, sports commentator Skip Bayless sparked controversy with a tweet that pivoted attention toward playoff seedings when others were concerned with the player who’d collapsed on the field: “No doubt the NFL is considering postponing the rest of this game – but how?” Bayless wrote. “This late in the season, a game of this magnitude is crucial to the regular-season outcome … which suddenly seems so irrelevant.”
Several members of the Eagles roster slammed the statement as insensitive and callous.
“Excuse my language but shut the fuck up,” wrote linebacker Shaun Bradley. Maddox responded quickly with a “Bruh shut up!”. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox simply quote-tweeted with a clown emoji. (Bayless followed his original tweet with comments that Hamlin’s health is the most important concern.)
The league’s hesitation to postpone prompted criticism. Detractors called it just one among many examples of the NFL’s treatment of its players, downplaying the threats the game can pose to players’ health, and lack of compassion.
Philadelphians and their football team have a history of criticizing NFL actions.
In 2017, as the league blackballed former QB Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee during the national anthem, a local coalition including the Philadelphia NAACP pushed for a widespread boycott. In 2018, the Super Bowl-winning Eagles declined the honorary visit to the White House because of Trump’s backing of the NFL mandate that teams stand during the anthem. In 2020, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said he would support a potential players boycott over the league’s refusal to address racial injustice.