Damar Hamlin’s injury highlights ugly faces in the NFL and our country

Malik Harvey, Staff Writer

Damar Hamlin is perhaps one of the more fascinating, uplifting and luminous stories the NFL has garnered in quite a while; so much so, the light shining from it is illuminating ugly sides of the NFL and price gougers.

The NFL and NFL Players Association recently agreed that Hamlin will receive his full salary for this year, regardless of him being placed on injured reserve (IR). Normally, when a player is subject to IR, their salary is cut in half. Hamlin was supposed to make $825,00 this year, but, due to the “standard split” clause in his contract, he would’ve come up $20,555.56 short.

I’d bet every vinyl record I own some people read that last sentence and thought, ‘Cry me a river, at least he’s still making six figures. Meanwhile, I’m trying to afford a life jacket for all the debt I’m swimming in.’

I have a tab with Uncle Sam as well, so I get it. It still doesn’t mean that some of the NFL practices aren’t obviously unethical. 

If this had been a torn ACL (which around 50 players suffer from each year), said player would’ve had to accept lower wages for the inconvenience put on the team, an inconvenience completely out of that player’s control.

What makes Hamlin’s case a little more interesting and revealing is that, since he’s only a second-year player, he’s one year shy of being eligible for a pension from the NFL and five years of post-retirement health insurance. Troy Vincent, the league executive vice president, said regardless of Hamlin’s pension status, the league will take care of him. As bombastic as Vincent sounds, at least it’s a verbal commitment to do something. 

If you didn’t catch the Buffalo Bills game against the New England Patriots, everywhere the camera turned you saw the number three (Damar Hamlin’s jersey number) plastered on a hat, shirt, uniform or even the field the game took place on. If it wasn’t his number, then it was t-shirts expressing their support for Hamlin, in so many words.

Seeing this made me wonder, ‘Is all of this Damar Hamlin apparel, suddenly, for sale?’ Allowing my curiosity to lead the way, I hopped on Google to find exactly what I hoped not to see: numerous shirts, hats and coffee mugs all giving “homage” to Hamlin. 

As far as I can see, the NFL isn’t directly making money from any of these sales, but for those who are and claim to do it as a way to honor Hamlin, I ask if it’s ethical to profit off of something that’s meant to pay homage? Or is paying homage meant to serve as an act of gratitude with nothing expected in return? My belief is the latter.