After sparking controversy with a tweet seen as a shot to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, Eli Apple is walking it back.
The Cincinnati Bengals cornerback spent much of the day on Monday taking shots at the Bills for their loss in Sunday’s divisional-round playoff game. Apple focused much of his attention on Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who was seen growing upset on the sidelines during Buffalo’s 27-10 loss to the Bengals.
In one tweet, Apple revived a taunt made popular by NBA player Patrick Beverly and included an emoji of two hands making a heart. Many saw that as a shot to Hamlin, who adopted the symbol to show love to those who supported him after his collapse in a Week 17 game.
In a tweet sent a few hours later, Apple sent a message to Hamlin and clarified that he meant no harm by it.
Eli Apple Clarifies Controversial Tweet
As he came under fire from Bills fans, Apple shared a message saying he wished Hamlin well in his recovery and didn’t intend to take a shot at him.
“All love thoughts prayers and concerns to @HamlinIsland as he continues to recover from that tragic incident,” Apple wrote. “Never would I make light of that scary unfortunate scene. This game is truly a dangerous risk to our bodies mind and spirit. Nothing but love to all my football brothers”
Apple’s original tweet had riled up many Bills fans, and at least one player. Defensive end Shaq Lawson took to Twitter to issue a direct threat to Apple if he continued to “disrespect” Hamlin.
“You played a good game @EliApple but disrespect my boy @HamlinIsland situation that s**t get you beat up frfr. Keep it on the field,” he tweeted.
Tensions seemed to cool after Apple’s tweet clarifying his intention. Later his mother, Annie Apple, turned the controversy into an opportunity to support a good cause.
“Calling all Eli Apple haters: Please use the hashtag #LoveToHateEliApple and we’ll donate $5,000 to the Salvation Army in Cincinnati…First 5,000 tweets with that hashtag,” she shared on Twitter. “Make your hate count. Put that Eli Apple hate to great use and help families needing housing and care”
Bengals, Bills Share Common Ties Over Hamlin
Though Apple’s tweet sparked some controversy, the Bills and Bengals had been largely united in their support of Hamlin through his recovery. Before Sunday’s game, Bengals center Ted Karras told the New York Post that his collapse in Week 17 brought the teams together.
“There was a rallying together,” Karras said. “The whole entire country was united — more unity than I’ve seen in a long time. Everybody was watching that game. That was the biggest game of the year up to that point, ‘Monday Night Football,’ the entire universe watching.
“The cities are very similar — very passionate fan bases, care about football, care about their players, very knowledgeable fan bases. I was glad to see two cities could really come together in prayer and donations and all sorts of support for the Bills organization and Damar and his family. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of Cincy travelers [at the game Sunday]. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Big playoff matchup.”