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Reporter claims NFL tried to cover up handling of Damar Hamlin situation

Damar Hamlin looks ahead

Jul 27, 2022; Pittsford, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (31) walks to the field during training camp at St. John Fisher University. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

NFL reporter Jim Trotter made a series of allegations in a discrimination lawsuit he filed against the league recently, and one of them has to do with how the Damar Hamlin situation was handled last season.

Trotter, who worked for NFL Media from 2018-2023, claims his contract was not renewed this year because he repeatedly voiced concerns regarding racial injustice and diversity. In an attempt to illustrate how the NFL tries to controls reporters with NFL Network and NFL Media, Trotter alleged in his lawsuit that he was silenced by the league when he tried to learn more about what unfolded after Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field last season.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, Trotter claimed in his lawsuit that he wanted to investigate the NFL’s initial directive for the Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals to resume following a five-minute warmup period after Hamlin was stretchered off the field. It had been reported by several outlets that the NFL initially intended to resume the game, so Trotter says he reached out to NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy for comment.

According to the suit, McCarthy denied that the NFL wanted to resume the game. When Trotter pressed further, McCarthy alleged told him, “I will call your supervisor if you don’t let this go.” Trotter says he later received a text message from another NFL official telling him to “stand down” with his reporting of that particular story.

“This entire incident makes it very clear that the NFL controls NFL Media, throttles content that is critical of the NFL and will not hesitate to silence employees who speak out regarding matters that are unfavorable to the league,” the lawsuit states. “While in this case, the matter involved the NFL’s handling of a sensitive incident involving a player injury, it was consistent with the resistance Mr. Trotter faced when speaking up regarding discrimination.”

After Hamlin collapsed, ESPN’s Joe Buck mentioned numerous times on the air that the NFL had given the Bills and Bengals a five-minute warmup period and told them the game would resume. The NFL disputed the report, but ESPN never backed down from it.

The NFL was likely going through its usual protocol for a major injury until it became clear that what happened with Hamlin was, unfortunately, a very unique situation. Rather than trying to scramble to cover that up, the NFL could have simply admitted they were following protocol until they realized how severe Hamlin’s injury was.

Trotter’s lawsuit also contains allegations that two NFL owners made racist remarks.

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