Damar Hamlin’s collapse exposes NFL greed, racism

Players walk off the field after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s catastrophic injury Jan. 2. NFL bosses wanted them to keep playing.

Another chilly Monday night, another football game, and another demonstration of the racist callousness at the very heart of the National Football League. 

The entire country watched in horror as Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suddenly collapsed on Jan. 2 after taking what is considered a “routine hit” in the NFL. As the minutes ticked on, it became clear that something was seriously wrong as both Bills and Cincinnati Bengals medical staff rushed to Hamlin’s side and made panicked calls for an ambulance. 

Hamlin received CPR and was defibrillated before an ambulance arrived on the field to transport the 24-year-old to a local trauma unit. This was accompanied by images of Buffalo and Cincinnati players weeping and holding their heads in distress. 

Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest and has remained under intensive medical care at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center since he collapsed. 

To the shock of many, the NFL did not cancel the game immediately. Instead, officials informed players and coaches on both sidelines that the players would have just five minutes to warm up before the game would resume. That’s right: five minutes. 

A young man was fighting for his life on the field after a “routine hit,” and the league’s response was a five-minute break. Joe Burrow, the Cincinnati quarterback, could be seen on camera warming up to play during this period. 

The only reason the game did not continue is because the players rightfully refused and exited the field to their locker rooms. No one should have to continue on with an already violent and stressful game after seeing one of their brothers fight for his life on the field. 

An hour after Hamlin collapsed, the NFL finally officially suspended the game. Later, the NFL made a pathetic attempt to cover up its callousness, even though multiple veteran sports broadcasters from various sports news outlets reported officials’ intent to resume play. 

NFL violates health and safety rules

The past year, in particular, has highlighted the brutality upon which capitalist fat cats like Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft rake in billions. In a week three game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a brutal concussion that caused him to convulse uncontrollably on the field. 

The horrific scene came less than a week after Tagovailoa had been placed in concussion protocol for a different hit to the head during a game against the Buffalo Bills. 

It was and is commonly thought that Tagovailoa actually suffered a concussion during the Bills game, that the Dolphins organization knew this and allowed him to play anyway. This would not be the first time that the Dolphins engaged in shady practices that violated NFL rules and common sense. 

A lawsuit against the NFL for racist hiring practices, filed by Dolphins ex-head coach Brian Flores, uncovered that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered $100,000 to Flores for purposefully losing games so the team could get a better pick in the upcoming player draft. 

It’s important to note that Flores, who at the time was one of the few Black NFL coaches, was fired from his Dolphins job after two winning seasons. 

As if that wasn’t bad enough alone, Tagovaloia’s entirely preventable injury came less than six months after a lawsuit uncovered that the NFL’s concussion settlement payments to previous players were tilted to pay out less to Black players. 

In particular, the NFL had established a different set of brain testing standards for Black retirees suffering from CTE or Alzheimers due to injuries sustained while they played professional football. This is the real face of the NFL: racism, eugenics, and exploitation.

Who’s really greedy?

Damar Hamlin’s collapse, along with the greed-driven callousness of NFL owners, gave the entire country a front-row seat to the true nature of the NFL as the racist gladiatorial bloodsport that it is. Black men sacrifice their bodies so white billionaires can make billions more in profits. 

And if that wasn’t bad enough, it is the players who are derided by fans, media, and owners alike for allegedly being greedy when they demand better working conditions. 

Former NFL cornerback and NFL Players Association President Domonique Foxworth raised this point on the air the morning after Hamlin’s injury. Foxworth called out the league, media, and fans for the treatment of NFL players, the vast majority of whom are Black:

“I remember going through CBA negotiations, and I remember fighting for health and safety advancements and fighting for a higher salary cap … I also remember some of these people in the media who were outpouring and caring last night. They were calling us greedy.”

Foxworth’s point cannot be overstated. The owners must revel in the fact that they exploit the players and make billions of dollars, but it is the players, the majority of whom are from Black working-class neighborhoods, who are painted as the greedy party. 

Damar Hamlin’s salary for this season is roughly $900,000. While it is true that for most workers, that would be an incredible amount of money, the reality is not as simple. Many professional athletes carry with them the financial hopes and dreams of entire families and, really, entire communities. Their careers can be very short and leave them with life-changing disabilities.

On top of that, NFL players are expected to live a certain lifestyle. The expenses add up quickly, yet the league, media, and fans insist that the players are overpaid and spoiled. 

Meanwhile, the owner of the Buffalo Bills has a net worth of $4 billion. The team made $470 million in profits last year and is valued at approximately $3.4 billion. 

The NFL and its allied institutions have some nerve accusing players of greed; the same players who put their bodies and lives on the line every week for the entertainment of millions and the wealth of a few. 

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