Damar Hamlin’s collapse highlights changes in NFL sportsmanship

Monday night was a reminder of the serious risks professional football players face, and also spoke to the humanity of players, fans, and the league.
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 10:11 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 3, 2023 at 10:53 PM EST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - The mentality of the NFL and its players has come into the spotlight following Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin’s collapse during Monday night’s football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Monday night was a reminder of the serious risks professional football players face, and also spoke to the humanity of players, fans, and the league.

“It was a tremendously important game and everybody was watching,” said western Massachusetts media personality and former Western Mass News sports reporter Scott Coen.

Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin collapsed during Monday night’s matchup, causing emergency crews to rush onto the field, perform CPR, and use a defibrillator – all unprecedented during an NFL game.

Millions watched as players took knees, held hands, and prayed.

“When you see something like that happen in sports, and we’ve seen it happen before, they all of a sudden transform from football players into just - people,” Coen said.

He told us that something like this tugs at your humanity.

“They’re not just these superhuman guys, you know, wearing helmets and have their names and numbers on the back,” Coen added. “You thought about this 24-year-old young man who seemingly has, you know, the world in the palm of his hand, and all of a sudden, that’s snatched away, and then, you think about him and his family and his mom, who I guess was at the game, so the human element automatically takes over.”

After the ambulance left, no one started warming up and players refused to continue playing.

“In recent years, it’s become a player’s league,” Coen told us.

This marked the first time an NFL game was suspended indefinitely because of an injury.

“The only time that the NFL ever canceled any game was for 9/11, and that was just a monumental worldwide event,” Coen said. “There was a fellow, Mike Utley, who played for the Detroit Lions in 1990. He was paralyzed on the field during the game and they continued the game.”

Coen said that the NFL is evolving and ultimately made the right decision, but he believes everyone had a voice in this.

“With social media, Twitter, and all of a sudden when something happens, the immediacy of people’s voices are heard,” he told us. “And the NFL, they heard the voice and they knew what they would be in store for if they didn’t do what they did.”

The NFL has said the Bills-Bengals game will not be rescheduled any time this week, however, the Bills are still set to face the Patriots on Sunday.