Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is now breathing on his own and talking as he recovers from his on-field cardiac arrest in Monday night’s NFL game, but the issues his near-death and ongoing recovery raise are very much not over. For one thing, there was the long delay before the game was officially postponed (it was later cancelled), when the call to postpone a game following an on-field near-death should be a pretty much immediate one. Reportedly the decision was only made after intervention by the players’ union.
But there’s something else. Hamlin is an early career player whose future is very uncertain. He has not made a lot of money in a career that has left him hospitalized in critical condition, and the NFL does not guarantee his long-term financial security if he can’t get back on the field and risk his life again. As I’ve watched the donation count rise on Hamlin’s charity GoFundMe, more than once I’ve thought that he might really be needing that money himself, depending how his recovery goes.
“He’s 24 years old. He got a contract for $160,000—that’s his bonus—and he earns $825,000 this year. He’s been in the league two years. That means he’s not vested. That means that if he never plays another down in his life, he doesn’t get another check from the NFL,” Cleveland sports podcaster Garrett Bush said in the video below. “You got to play 3-4 years before you even sniff a pension. So all these heartwarming prayers and condolences don’t do anything for that boy’s mom, who has to go home, look at her son, and he might need extensive care for the rest of his life.”
Bush also noted that the league’s disability pay is now only $4,000 a month, with very high rejection rates.
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