Buffalo Bills safety Dama Hamlin was in critical condition after collapsing following an on-field collision with an opposing player Monday night during a nationally televised NFL game in Cincinnati.
But to a group of right-wing anti-vaxxers on social media, the status of Hamlin’s health wasn’t nearly as important as his vaccination status, if their Twitter activity was any indication.
The exact diagnosis for Hamlin, a 24-year-old second-year player, was not immediately clear after his response to a violent tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin tackled Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins and got up immediately. Moments later, Hamlin fell to the ground from a cardiac arrest. Players and coaching staff took to their knees to pray for Hamlin, who was attended to by trainers before an ambulance drove onto the field to take him to the hospital.
In a chilling scene that grounded to a halt the showdown between two of the NFL’s best teams, CPR was administered to Hamlin on the field for multiple minutes after he collapsed following a play in the first quarter. He received oxygen, according to the ESPN broadcast, as he was placed in the ambulance and taken off the field some 16 minutes after he collapsed and driven to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
The alarming ordeal prompted an outpouring of prayers as players and viewers alike expressed sentiments of concern for Hamlin. But it also sparked what appeared to be a coordinated attempt to spread a conspiracy about the COVID-19 vaccine, Hamlin’s vaccination status and whether it had contributed to his injury.
While tone-deaf tweets are par for the Twitter course — this means you, Skip Bayless — the fact that this notable group of vaccine conspiracy theorists is at least adjacent to MAGA ideologies is likely not a coincidence.
Grant Stinchfield, a former Newsmax host who is not a medical doctor, took it upon himself to tweet about the “NFL Mandate.” The fired anchor for the right-wing network punctuated his tweet with two syringe emojis.
Failed congressional candidate Cait Corrigan, who ran for the Republican nomination for New York’s 1st Congressional District last year, was much less vague than Stinchfield in her Twitter commentary about Hamlin and his injury.
After incorrectly implying that Hamlin had died, Corrigan was promptly criticized for her uninformed speculation.
Corrigan fired back in a separate tweet: “Oops. I forgot that it is only appropriate to ask for one’s vaccine status to enter a restaurant, keep employment, or continue going to school. It’s unacceptable to ask vaccine status if a healthy young person collapses or dies suddenly.
Corrigan, whose Twitter account features a banner photo of herself smiling next to Donald Trump, went on to liken herself to a martyr of sorts in the moment for “those who ask the difficult questions and speak the truth.”
To be sure, the NFL in March suspended its COVID-19 protocols. Data show that nearly 95% of all NFL players are vaccinated.
It took an actual medical doctor to chime in and be the voice of reason among social media choruses of misinformation regarding Hamlin’s injury.
“The video of Damar Hamlin from a cardiologist’s perspective resembled commotio cordis – a phenomenon that occurs when a sudden blunt impact to the chest causes cardiac arrest,” Dr. Bernard Ashby, a vascular cardiologist who is also a medical school professor, tweeted Monday night. “Timely defibrillation is life saving & prevents anoxic brain injury. I pray an AED was near.”
Notably, nowhere in Ashby’s tweet about Hamlin and his injury was any reference to the NFL player’s vaccine status.
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