A former NFL coach has sparked outrage for invoking Damar Hamlin’s horror collapse in a call to end abortion.
Tony Dungy, a football analyst for NBC News and former coach of the Indianapolis Colts, spoke at the annual March for Life anti-abortion rally in Washington DC on Friday and made reference to Mr Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills player who suffered cardiac arrest on the field earlier this month.
Mr Dungy credited the “miracle” of prayer with saving Mr Hamlin’s life, and suggested the same efforts should be applied to stopping abortion.
“An unbelievable thing happened that night. A professional football game with millions of dollars of ticket money and advertising money on the line, that game was cancelled. Why? Because a life was a stake, and people wanted to see that life saved,” he said.
“Even people who are not necessarily religious got together and called on God. Well, that should be encouraging to us because that’s exactly why we’re here today. Because every day in this country, innocent lives are at stake. The only difference is they don’t belong to a famous athlete and they’re not seen on national TV. But those lives are still important to God and in God’s eyes.”
The remarks received raucous applause at the rally, but drew the opposite response from many on Twitter.
“W o w. This is seriously awful. Damn,” one critic wrote.
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am to see him do this. There is no comparison between the two, none,” another added.
Mr Dungy’s comments came as Mr Hamlin faces a lengthy recovery from his ordeal, after having been released from the hospital on 11 January.
Mr Hamlin’s heart stopped nine minutes into a game with the Cincinnati Bengals after he collided with wide receiver Tee Higgins.
He was resuscitated on the field and was initially treated at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center before being moved back to Buffalo and continuing treatment at Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute in the state of New York.
On 14 January, the Bills released a statement confirming that the 24-year-old was being released from hospital and heading home.
“Damar Hamlin has been discharged from Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute, a Kaleida Helath facility in Buffalo, NY,” read the statement.
“Hamlin was admitted on Monday and went through a comprehensive medical evaluation as well as a series of cardiac, neurological and vascular testing on Tuesday.
Jamie Nadler, MD, critical care physician and Chief Quality Officer at Kaleida Health, and the care team lead for Mr Hamlin said, “we have completed a series of tests and evaluations, and in consultation with the team physicians, we are confident that Damar can be safely discharged to continue his rehabilitation at home and with the Bills.”
Six days after the incident, Mr Hamlin shared an image on social media from his hospital bed in Cincinnati. He was sitting up, making a heart sign with his hands to show his appreciation for the outpouring of support following his collapse.
In the photo, Mr Hamlin wore a hat with the number three on it as well as a T-shirt with the message “love for Damar”. He also tweeted several times during the Bills’ 35-22 victory against the New England Patriots that day.
“It’s GameDay & There’s Nothing I Want More Than To Be Running Out That Tunnel With My Brothers,” he said.