Less than a week has passed since the nation watched the Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffer cardiac arrest during the team’s primetime matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football. Bills’ athletic trainer Denny Kellington administered life-saving CPR on the 24-year-old safety, who continues to receive care at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Hamlin’s recovery thus far has been nothing short of remarkable, but when a Pittsburgh Steelers player celebrated a sack against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson in the fourth quarter by mimicking CPR on linebacker Alex Highsmith on Sunday, January 8, it was way too soon for many NFL fans.
Country radio host Isaac Wenzel tweeted, “Did a Steelers player just do CPR in a big play celebration??” while Locked on Cowboys host Marcus Mosher retweeted a video of the moment and asked, “I mean…. What are we doing here???” before adding in a follow-up tweet, “Just another reason why we should all be happy Pittsburgh isn’t in the playoffs.”
While several people on Twitter pointed out how this is a very common on-field celebration, the ill-timing of it sparked backlash. “The Gunz Show” host Mike Gunz tweeted, “Steelers defense celebrated a sack by performing CPR. Of all weeks… not a great look. Yikes,” before adding, “He obviously didn’t have any ill intention towards Hamlin. Just saying it happened and the timing wasn’t greatest.”
USA Today‘s Jarrett Bailey agreed. “Highly doubt they were mocking what happened, but yeah very tone deaf and bad optics here,” Bailey tweeted.
One fan tweeted, “Guys were having fun. Meant nothing towards 3. Non issue,” while another person wrote, “Even if players have been doing this for years, in light of what happened to Damar, he should have maybe thought twice before doing it this time. Really poor timing!”
On Friday, January 6, Full Squad Gaming’s Jake Lucky tweeted about how fans have also asked Madden to remove the CPR celebration from the video game.
“Who thought this was a good celebration in the first place????” one person responded, while another person wrote, “It’s a real celebration lol just bc one freak incident happen doesn’t mean ppl gotta cancel madden now.”
Several Steelers Players Personally Drop Off Goods at Hamlin’s Toy Drive
While the timing of the CPR celebration was triggering for many, especially since Pittsburgh is Hamlin’s hometown, the Steelers organization has been incredibly supportive of Hamlin’s recovery. Highsmith’s most recent tweet is a prayer for Hamlin’s health.
On Friday, January 6, Steelers players Tre Norwood, Cam Sutton, Terrell Edmunds, and Levi Wallace, the latter of whom is a former teammate of Hamlin, stopped by the safety’s mother’s daycare center in McKee Rocks to drop off toys, books, and teacher supplies for his charity. A GoFundMe for Hamlin’s Toy Drive has raised over $8.5 million since he collapsed on the field.
“It’s just a way that we can give back,” Wallace said of the gesture, per Steelers.com. “Just to be able to give back to kids that he works with and his community he loves so much. We’re doing it just to honor him and show our love for him that we’re supporting him here in Pittsburgh. Just hearing the great news that he’s doing better, I think comes just from a grateful place. I’ve seen how hard he works on and off the field and so anything that I could do here in Pittsburgh, I’m here to do.”
Norwood said he was “walking around with a big smile” after hearing about Hamlin’s Facetime call to the Bills. “Damar and I developed a friendship over the past couple of years through football. Being here in Pittsburgh, you see how much the city loves him, how much he gives back to the city. With all his family is going through right now, we just want to help out a little bit.”
Hamlin Loved All the Team Tributes on Sunday, Cheered on the Bills Via Twitter
Hamlin cheered the Bills on from his hospital bed on Sunday. When the Bills ran out of the tunnel at Highmark Stadium with flags that read, “Pray for Damar 3,” he wrote on Instgram, “This mean the world to me fr! 🏾”
Hamlin reposted tributes from teams across the league on his Instagram Stories, but was deeply focused on the Bills’ Week 18 victory. After watching tight end Dawson Know throw up the No. 3 after his touchdown against the Patriots, Hamlin tweeted, “I love you too 🏾 @dawson_knox.”
Following Hines’ second kickoff return touchdown, Hamlin tweeted, “🔓🔓🔓 HINES FREE 🔓🔓🔓,” and after Stefon Diggs caught a 49-yard touchdown pass, “14. The biggest of the biggest. ❤️,” he wrote.