During Monday night’s game against the Bengals, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest and received extensive medical attention on the field. Hamlin tackled Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins in the first quarter, stood back up, and then collapsed immediately. Although the league initially looked prepared to give the players a five-minute break before resuming play, the game has been postponed indefinitely, with Hamlin in critical condition at a Cincinnati hospital and many Bills players flying home that same night.
The NFL, which has faced persistent criticism for its handling of CTE and assorted player safety concerns, could certainly see an uptick in fan scrutiny after this incident. According to new CivicScience data, just under one-fifth of all U.S. adults trust the NFL ‘a lot’ to handle player safety concerns – with more than double that figure not trusting the league at all. But among those who follow the NFL ‘very closely,’ trust in the league to handle player safety to at least some extent ticks up to 80%, compared with 60% for the Gen Pop.
The ebbs and flows in NFL ratings have fueled discourse throughout the past few years, with varying factions attributing changes to hot-button culture war subjects, cord-cutting, quality of play, the pandemic, and more. But player safety could certainly become a substantial factor in declining league interest. Among those who watch the NFL, 13% say they have ‘significantly’ considered not watching the NFL in the future due to player safety concerns. A vast majority – 72% – claim to have not considered abandoning the league at all over the issue, so much of the fanbase will remain intact.
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