OPINION | Fans prove football is family in support of Damar Hamlin


Courtesy of OSV News photo/Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters--

Bill Mafia shows their support for Damar Hamlin in the team’s most recent game vs. the New England Patriots in which they won 35-23 at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY. (Jan. 8, 2023)

On Jan. 2, the Buffalo Bills were set to play the Cincinnati Bengals for a primetime game. The Bills were competing to lock up the #1 seed in the AFC, while the Bengals were looking to win the AFC North Division. 

Tragedy struck when Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin collapsed after making a routine tackle on Bengals’ third-year wideout Tee Higgins.  

Many people, including myself, went into Monday night expecting to see a competitive game between two of the best teams in the NFL. Instead, we were left in disarray and tears. 

Hamlin’s collapse to the ground horrified fans all across the country. No one knew why he fell, and nobody could provide an explanation. 

After his collapse, paramedics rushed in immediately to take care of Hamlin. Players from both teams surrounded Hamlin and started to kneel in prayer. 

The crowd that was once roaring was silent, and faces of excitement from players turned into fear.  

After football commentator Joe Buck noted paramedics were on the field administering CPR, fans started to pray. This went on for nine minutes before Hamlin was driven to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.  

I remember seeing multiple sports injuries live throughout my life. I remember seeing former Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox suffer a gruesome back injury on a kick return. 

I also recall seeing former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier become paralyzed versus the Bengals. However, I have never experienced anything like what I saw on Monday. 

Former Pittsburgh Steeler and current football analyst Ryan Clark showed immense support for Hamlin and his family. 

“This is about a human. This is about a brother. This is about a son. This is about a friend. This is someone who is loved by so many that you have to watch go through this,” Clark said.

After Hamlin was taken to the hospital, the NFL initially wanted both teams to resume the game. Each team was given five minutes to warm-up. 

Bengals’ head coach Zac Taylor met up with Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott at midfield. Taylor reportedly told McDermott that he was not going to put his men back on the field after the incident. McDermott replied, “I need to be at the hospital with Damar. I shouldn’t be coaching this game. 

Fans took to Twitter and instagram to also voice frustration with the league trying to make the players finish the game when they were clearly not mentally ready to play football. 

Reports revealed that Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field after making the tackle on Higgins. 

People defended Higgins after a slew of backlash on social media. Many fans and other football analysts were adamant it was not his fault Hamlin collapsed.

Social media lit up with fans sending prayers and positive thoughts to Hamlin and his family. Not only that, but they donated millions of dollars to his charity called the “Chasing M’s Foundation.”

The original goal of the charity was $2,500; however, they raised over 3 million during the week and are still counting. 

NFL fans coming together for one common goal reminds you that we are one big community. There are heated rivalries and debates throughout the season, but seeing everyone join together to pray for someone they’ve never met before is remarkable. 

Basketball players Kevin Love and Donovan Mitchell of the Cleveland Cavaliers came to support Hamlin after their win versus the Chicago Bulls. 

In the days that have followed, Hamlin has progressively got better. He was in critical condition for three days before waking up.

Eventually, Hamlin communicated with his teammates on a video call using various hand signals. 

On Jan. 8, Hamlin could communicate fully with his family and teammates. He made multiple social media posts expressing his excitement to watch his brothers play against division rival New England Patriots. 

Over the last week, NFL fans proved football really is family in the face of adversity. We are all hoping and praying that he continues to progress in his recovery. 

After being officially discharged from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center on Monday Jan. 9, Hamlin has now been released from Buffalo General Medical Center, nine days after he nearly lost his life.

Miracles clearly do happen.