Sorry to disappoint you, conspiracy theorists, but Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin is very much alive and healing from the cardiac incident that derailed his season and almost ended his life on Monday Night Football.
On Jan. 2, when the Bills met the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium, Hamlin, the Bills starting safety in place of his injured teammate Micah Hyde, completed a tackle on Bengals receiver Tee Higgins, got up from the turf, adjusted his helmet and then collapsed.
Football fans watched in horror as medical personnel, surrounded by Bills players who blocked the camera’s view, attempted to resuscitate Hamlin, who was in full cardiac arrest. Once he was transported to a local hospital, concern for his well-being went viral, reaching non-football fans and people around the world. A GoFundMe account was created while he was still in college to collect a modest amount for a holiday toy drive. The original goal of $2,500 has since grown to raise over $9 million.
In what could only be described as a miraculous recovery, Hamlin woke up less than a week later. To everyone’s surprise he asked “Did we win” not knowing the game had been canceled. By that Sunday, players around the league were wearing “Pray for Damar” tees. And what seemed like the entire world was sending him support via social media.
In the first game the Bills played the Sunday after the incident, Hamlin live-tweeted from his hospital room as Bills player Nyheim Hines returned a touchdown to the end zone on the opening drive. (And then did it again in the second half). The Bills beat the New England Patriots 35- 23 with most of the crowd wearing Hamlin shirts, waving signs in support or both.
In the first video he’s posted to social media since he was released from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center nine days after his collapse, Hamlin said he appreciates the support but also said the response was overwhelming. The 24-year-old is shown in the Bills’ facility walking to a meeting room where the video was recorded with the assistance of team staff.
“It was just a lot to process within my own self, mentally, physically, even spiritually,” he says in the video posted to his and the Buffalo Bills’ social media accounts. In it, he thanks the first responders, doctors, his family, his teammates and the NFL for all their support.
Hamlin did not provide any updates on his medical condition or any reason doctors may have discovered for his collapse. His spokesman had previously said that Hamlin is recovering but still needs supplemental oxygen. Observers noted that the video appeared to have been recorded in several takes and edited.
The timing of Hamlin’s announcement could have been to assuage conspiracy theories that surged after he attended the Bills’ second game Jan. 22 against the Bengals to decide who would advance to the AFC Championship. Hamlin was briefly seen on video walking to his suite via an enclosed golf cart. He appeared to be wearing a face covering.
From a side view, Damar was shown in the suite cheering on the team with his younger brother, Damir. From there, Hamlin acknowledged fans with the heart symbol he’s become known by. His face was obscured by falling snow which kept up throughout most of the game. The Bengals won 27-10.
This led some conspiracy theorists to perpetuate that Hamlin died on the field and that someone else was impersonating him. As crazy as that sounds, it made Hamlin a trending topic for days after the game. Almost directly after he collapsed, anti-vaxxers speculated that Hamlin’s cardiac arrest was due to the vaccine, purporting to know when and where he first had the shot. (While many NFL players have been vaccinated, no one has revealed Hamlin’s vaccination status.)
Neither Hamlin, his family nor any of the doctors treating him have made that correlation. What caused his collapse also has not been publicly revealed.
Hamlin says that he intends to put the unexpected financial blessing to good use. He has already made his Chasing Millions foundation an official 5013c non-profit.
“What happened to me on Monday Night Football, I feel, is a direct example of God using me as a vessel to share my passion and my love directly from my heart with the entire world,” Hamlin said.
“And now I’m able to give to kids and communities all across the world who need it the most. And that’s always been my dream,” he added. “That’s always been what I stood for and what I will continue to stand for.”
He ended the video with his now-viral heart hand gesture.
Here’s how conspiracy theorists debated his injury:
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