I’m a professor of sports journalism, and ESPN really did the best they could with Damar Hamlin’s horrific injury on ‘Monday Night Football’

In a serious state, he stays where he was taken to a hospital, before he regained consciousness, paramedics worked on him. This was a matter of life and death. There was no torn ACL or broken arm in this case. In the game between Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills on “Monday Night Football,” Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed to the ground after a tackle.

ESPN’s commentators and studio anchors were left to interpret the unfolding events in real time, despite having very little information.

As a sportswriter, I have covered many contests that were battles of language, interwoven with extraordinary feats of human accomplishment. As a professor of sports journalism, I spend a lot of my teaching time covering how students can cover games.

When a sports crisis strikes, it can miserably fail some and do well for others. However, it is left to report to the media about the moment and the surrounding context.

In its coverage of Hamlin’s injury, ESPN was, I believe, a sound and responsible broadcaster during one of football’s darkest on-field moments.

Aikman inquired, “Should we proceed with the football game?” As he requested the NFL to halt the game. Ultimately, they refrained from speculating about Hamlin’s condition and instead responded with empathy and concern, using lengthy commentary and exaggerated reporting to fill the live broadcast. They provided a detailed account of the unfolding scene, accompanied by sideline reporter Lisa Salters, and ESPN’s broadcasting pair, Troy Aikman and Joe Buck.

As mentioned by The Washington Post, “The telecast was measured, informative, and emotional.”

“At this point, we believe that no one is concerned about football tonight anymore, as McFarland acknowledged the inherent violence in the game. The audience was reminded that players are the primary focus, whether they are members of the Bengals or the Bills – Ryan Clark and Booger McFarland, former NFL players in the studio, offered their perspectives on what it might feel like to be a player on the field in that moment.”

Clark, who himself was hospitalized for a splenic infarction in 2007 shortly after participating in a game for the Pittsburgh Steelers, recognizes the act of putting one’s life in jeopardy as a component of pursuing an NFL dream.

He stated, “we have the opportunity tonight to witness the side of football that is incredibly unattractive, a side that no one ever wants to acknowledge or even see.”

Instead of focusing on the game or making money, the network emphasized the significance of a player’s life by taking the action of reducing all advertisements for over an hour, in order to offer continuous coverage and highlight the seriousness of the situation.

When the media fails to deliver accurately

In an age where social media can scrutinize and analyze every word spoken, it is incredibly easy to say something wrong, especially when a live sports broadcast experiences a disastrous moment.

Is it crucial to the magnitude of this game, late in the season, how irrelevant it seems? The NFL is considering postponing the rest of this game, with no doubt. After all, the tweet went viral for all the wrong reasons, but even the controversial commentator Skip Bayless, who wasn’t even on the air, was asking just the wrong questions.

The NFL must now work out how to address the timing and tone of his criticism, as it may have implications for the postseason and the outcome of this game. Bayless had a valid point.

Bayless is not the sole broadcaster to be accused of insensitively covering the passing or severe harm of sports celebrities.

Instead of Bryant, the BBC aired footage of LeBron James while ABC News ultimately suspended a reporter who stated on live television that all four of Bryant’s daughters were among the crash victims. Some journalists spread false information in their haste to release updates on the story. ESPN moved the news to ESPN2 in order to avoid interrupting Pro Bowl coverage, while TMZ broke the news before the family was officially informed. The tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna in 2020 serves as an example of the potential pitfalls.

During the crash, a probe cleared the driver and uncovered that Ward was under the influence of sufficient cannabis to hinder him. The press promptly placed the responsibility solely on Stewart previously, but it was Tony Stewart, the individual whose vehicle collided with him, who attracted the majority of the media attention. Kevin Ward, Jr., The driver, was fatally injured in a sprint car race in 2014.

The cameras of the BBC captured the full 15 minutes before cutting to the studio, where Eriksen’s teammates and life partner were visibly traumatized. As they struggled to come to terms with the situation, Eriksen’s life was in jeopardy, and medical professionals on the field performed chest compressions. The sports media coverage of Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in 2020 was unlike anything we had ever seen before.

Giving more importance to grieving than to making money

The media has the duty to manage a catastrophe for the sake of the public, starting from the sorrowful demises of basketball athletes Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis, to the fatalities of auto racers Dan Weldon and Dale Earnhardt, and to Chuck Hughes who, in 1971, became the inaugural and solitary NFL football player to pass away during a game.

It can be argued that in the digital age, media serves as a crucial conduit for the community to connect with people amidst tragedy, providing support and sharing their grief. Research has shown that media is often responsible for responsibly modeling public displays of appropriate emotions, whether it be in the case of tragic or traumatic events, in order to show respect for the victims and their families.

When it comes to the love of people for football, there is a fine line when it comes to the catastrophe and sports. The players are depicted in the Coliseum like gladiators, with their teammates saying that they will die. Football is known for its warlike nature, and the media often quotes athletes about it.

When life and death become all too real, the welfare of the athlete becomes more important than victories and defeats. From my perspective, the primary responsibility of the media in such situations is to assist in emphasizing the human aspect of the player.

As Scott Van Pelt, the host of “SportsCenter” stated: “Sports holds significance. And all of a sudden, it loses its importance.”