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WILL SLIMY MEDIA CHARLATANS PLEASE LEAVE DAMAR HAMLIN ALONE?
It’s no wonder most Americans distrust media when Jason Whitlock accuses Hamlin of holding out for a huge network payday to speak on camera — hours before he posted a lengthy Instagram video for free
Please understand that Jason Whitlock isn’t the only nutball in the media business. There was a time when I was targeted, simultaneously, by a blogging drug addict (A.J. Daulerio) at a trash website (Deadspin), a British editor and ex-rugby player hit in the head too many times (Michael Cooke), a colleague who wanted to fight me in an arena as Al Gore walked past (Rick Telander), a drunken baseball manager known as the Blizzard of Oz (Ozzie Guillen), and Whitlock, as he was gaining weight and losing his mind.
I’m happy to report that Daulerio has found religion, Cooke has long since departed the U.S. and the newspaper industry, Guillen is banished from the dugout permanently, and Telander is occupied by serenity after a wee-hours DUI arrest in which five charges were curiously cleared. But Jason Whitlock?
He still lurks, with fewer pounds and even fewer brain cells.
Where are the men in the white coats?
The other night, he shamed himself in ways that suggest he isn’t fit for Planet Earth, much less a microphone for a niche political outlet. Only hours before Damar Hamlin made his first public comments since collapsing in a cardiac arrest incident on Jan. 2 — his Instagram video was poignant and elaborate, lasting nearly six minutes — Whitlock had accused Hamlin of holding out for lucrative media paydays before he ever would speak on camera. Specifically, he accused a 24-year-old football player who literally dropped dead — has heart stopped twice, in fact — of trying to cash in via checkbook network interviews. Hours later, Hamlin’s video was posted after he spoke into a camera at the Buffalo Bills’ team facility.
Free of charge, for all the world to see.
Let’s just say Whitlock’s accusations didn’t age well.
“I believe his handlers have advised him to follow a carefully crafted script. A reality script that will allow him to charge maximum dollars for his on-camera interviews,” Whitlock said on Blaze TV, Glenn Beck’s conservative arm. “Hamlin is the star of the Damar Hamlin reality show. He's the subject of a documentary that he and his team are likely producing in real time. They'll auction the documentary and any interviews to the same global corporations and networks that finance the NFL. … This is the power of television and social media. Separately they harm truth, together they annihilate truth, reducing it to an unrecognizable rubble and a weapon of mass destruction.”
He could have added, “They’re coming to take me away, ha-haaa!”
As any media executive could tell Whitlock, posting a lengthy self-video severely undercuts any chance of NBC, CBS, ABC/ESPN, Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix or another broadcast/streaming company paying massive or even middling sums for a Hamlin sit-down. Understandably, less than a month after escaping death on a Cincinnati field as millions watched in horror, Hamlin needed time to process a terrifying, surreal experience. Also understandably, he wanted his speaking skills to improve in recovery before addressing the masses publicly.
Last Saturday was “the right time,” in a video captioned “From The Heart.” Curious how it didn’t involve a financial transaction, except the Bills’ wi-fi bill. Why didn’t Whitlock grasp the basics of humanity? Because he’s a subhuman.
“It was just a lot to process,” Hamlin said, “within my own self, mentally, physically, even spiritually. But I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of all the love, the support and everything that’s just been coming in my way.
“What happened to me on ‘Monday Night Football,’ I feel, is a direct example of God using me as a vessel to share my passion and my love directly from my heart with the entire world. And now I’m able to give to kids and communities all across the world who need it most. And that’s always been my dream. That’s always been what I stood for and what I will continue to stand for.”
There will be haters who go down Whitlock’s rabbit hole and wonder why Hamlin wore a t-shirt with a “Chasing Millions” inscription. If we’re sticking to facts here and ignoring attention-seeking crap, Hamlin started his Chasing M’s Foundation in his hometown outside Pittsburgh before he was drafted by the Bills in 2021. After he was hospitalized, Hamlin’s family launched a toy drive with an original goal of $2,500. More than 200,000 people donated $9 million-plus. What’s next, Whitlock accusing him of misappropriation?
“That was something that was started even way before I made it to the NFL, something that was started small just to be able to affect my small community back at home, McKees Rocks,” Hamlin said on the video. “I just wanted to be able to play my role and do my part in my community as I ventured off and to chase my dreams of making the NFL, and you guys have just took that and blown it away, and I'm so excited for the things that I have planned in the future for these kids all across the country now.
“It's always been important for me to be a role model. But just seeing the love and the support from the youth, it just makes me want to give back and get out in the communities and touch the kids and just be that example that they can look to, touch, feel, talk to and know that whatever they dream of, it's real. It can happen if you stay focused, stay dedicated, stay committed to whatever you got going on, you know, because that's pretty much what got me here.”
All that’s left to answer is Hamlin’s future. I would be shocked if any team physician, particularly in a violent sport, approved even the beginnings of a football comeback. His doctors cite no neurological damage — a miracle in itself — yet why risk the horror of another cardiac event in uniform? I can’t imagine the NFL and the Bills taking on the liability and potential trauma. I do imagine the Bills making him a long-term team ambassador. Though the NFL has a horrid record of disability payments, the league already is on record that Hamlin will be supported financially despite not meeting the three-year requirement for pension benefits.
“Obviously in situations like this we expect, God willing, that he would recover,” said Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, in the days after Hamlin’s collapse. “But he will — he would — get the resources necessary to make sure he has what he needs to live a complete life.”
Otherwise, what else would Hamlin say in a checkbook interview? How is a man supposed to speak about conquering death when … HE WAS DEAD? The late Barbara Walters, who popularized the sit-down interview and the frenzy among networks to land subjects on camera, wouldn’t get much out of Damar Hamlin at this point. We’ve seen him gesturing in the stadium suite with his family. His teammates and coaches have seen him via FaceTime. He has been visiting the team facility to develop a regimen of normalcy. “A baby step at a time,” coach Sean McDermott said, adding Hamlin is “dipping his toe back in here and getting on the road to just getting back to himself.” But it will be a while, if ever, before he is certain to live a normal life. It took me months, as a patient whose heart didn’t stop like his, to fully gain my mental and physical faculties after a stent was inserted in an artery.
In the most recent medical update, a week and a half ago, Hamlin’s friend and marketing representative echoed doctors in emphasizing that he faces a long rehabilitation period. “Damar still requires oxygen and is having his heart monitored regularly to ensure there are no setbacks or after-effects,” Jordon Rooney told the Associated Press. “Though he is able to visit the team’s facility, Damar is not in position to travel often, and requires additional rest to help his body heal.”
Hamlin agreed that his road back is just starting. “I will continue to do wonderful and great things,” he said. “I couldn't do this without any of the support and the love, and I can't wait to continue to take y'all on this journey with me.”
Yet Whitlock rambled on anyway, craving media traffic in his lowly cave, claiming CBS is involved in a Hamlin conspiracy because the network ceded to his wishes not to dwell on his suite presence during the Bills’ home playoff loss on Jan. 22. At least he refrained from claiming Hamlin had died and was replaced by a body double, a social-media absurdity that was posed to Bills quarterback Josh Allen after the loss. “Absolutely zero chance,” Allen said. “That’s the Damar Hamlin, that’s our guy, that’s our brother. He was with us pre-game, post-game, he was up in the suite with his family and his little brother. 100 percent.
“People need to stop that shit.”
Until media hysteria is regulated in America — impossible as long as the Constitution is legally intact — creeps will say what they please.
Rambled Whitlock: “The weaponization of Damar Hamlin began (when) … the network trumpeted the fact that Damar Hamlin cheered on the Bills from a suite inside Highmark Stadium. On numerous occasions, cameras cut to Hamlin allegedly reacting to the action on the field. I use the word ‘allegedly’ because the image of Hamlin was so fuzzy behind the glass and snow that it could have easily been an actor wearing a hoodie and gaiter face mask. Earlier, footage of Hamlin entering the stadium clearly showed his mom and little brother stepping on an elevator but it was impossible to see Hamlin beneath a hoodie, gaiter, sunglasses and a bowed head. Security guards blocked cameras from getting too close to Hamlin. Why the secrecy?”
Oh, I don’t know, maybe because he returned from the dead — twice — just a few weeks earlier. Close brushes with death have a certain effect on people. Maybe Whitlock should try it sometime.
Jay Mariotti, called “without question the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes general sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts and shows in production today. He is an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and talk/podcast host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects.