A nationally-televised football game ground to a halt on Monday after a player suffered from a cardiac arrest on the field.
The Monday Night Football match-up between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals was well into the first quarter when Bills safety Damar Hamlin, 24, suddenly collapsed at the end of a play.
For more than 10 minutes, first responders provided CPR to Hamlin, who was said to have a pulse but not breathing on his own. Hamlin was placed in an awaiting ambulance and transported to a local trauma center in Cincinnati, where he was listed in critical condition.
The incident prompted a lengthy delay of Monday Night Football, which typically airs on ESPN but was nationally simulcast on local ABC stations and affiliates.
For more than a half-hour, ESPN and ABC Sports commentators and reporters offered impromptu coverage of the injury, while some questioned whether the National Football League’s officials would order the continuation of the game.
At 10 p.m. Eastern Time, NFL officials issued a statement saying the remainder of the Monday Night Football game would be postponed indefinitely. By then, ESPN had transitioned to SportsCenter with Scott van Pelt, which typically airs at the conclusion of a game. ABC stations and affiliates simulcast SportsCenter until 8 p.m. Eastern Time, when most broadcast stations in the eastern part of the country went to local news.
AUDIO: On conference call with news media, NFL's EVP of Football Operations Troy Vincent says rumors that Cincinnati and Buffalo players were told to warm up for 5 minutes after Damar Hamlin injury were false. The report was broadcast on ESPN before game suspended. pic.twitter.com/BjUyYW5HFO
— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) January 3, 2023
On a late-evening conference call with reporters, NFL officials said initial reports that players were told to warm up immediately after the injury were erroneous.
“That’s ridiculous and insensitive,” Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said during the call, adding that no coaches or players discussed with the league the potential of playing after Hamlin’s injury.
“Medical advice guided our decisions,” Dawn Aponte, the league’s chief football administration officer, said on the call. “We made decisions that we believed to be in the best interest of [Hamlin] and both teams.”
The incident marked one of the few times the NFL moved to indefinitely postpone a football game and its associated telecast following a serious injury to a player. Earlier in the season, another football player — Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — sustained a concussion while playing a game in Cincinnati that was nationally televised by Amazon’s Prime Video. That telecast was interrupted by the injury, but the game and the broadcast eventually resumed after Tagovailoa was removed from the field for medical evaluation and treatment.