By now, you’ve likely heard the news that Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed shortly after an on-field collision with another player Monday night during a nationally televised NFL game in Cincinnati against the Bengals. Hamlin suffered a serious injury that had him in critical condition. And for some reason, at that moment—while the shock of witnessing Hamlin suffer a possibly life-threatening injury on national television was still fresh—sports commentator Skip Bayless thought it was the perfect time to tweet about how canceling the game might affect the NFL season.
“No doubt the NFL is considering postponing the rest of this game – but how?” Bayless tweeted. “This late in the season, a game of this magnitude is crucial to the regular-season outcome…which suddenly seems so irrelevant.”
Obviously, Bayless saw himself getting dragged up and down the internet by NFL players and fans alike and he knew he’d better damn well post a follow-up tweet explaining that he understands Hamlin’s health is the priority.
“Nothing is more important than that young man’s health,” he wrote. “That was the point of my last tweet. I’m sorry if that was misunderstood but his health is all that matters. Again, everything else is irrelevant. I prayed for him & will continue to.”
Here’s the thing: You can’t just make 90% of a tweet about how canceling the game will affect the NFL season outcome and then tack on an ellipsis at the end just to basically say, “Well, I guess all that’s irrelevant now.”
Skip is a broadcaster with decades of experience, he can’t expect that everyone is going to buy it when he blunders this big and obvious and tries to explain it away by essentially saying, “Y’all know what I meant, and I’m sorry you were confused if you didn’t.”
Of course, none of that has stopped social media from exploding into a polarized though-vomit battle between Bayless defenders and detractors who feel he should be fired over the offense.
Some of Skip’s defenders pointed out that in an earlier tweet, the Undisputed host posted a more appropriate tweet expressing concern for Hamlin and his family—which would have been fine if that was literally the only thing he tweeted on the subject.
Listen, whether or not Bayless should be fired is ultimately up to the individual. (Although when fellow NFL players are calling for his termination while others are afraid of the “cancel culture” boogeyman claiming another “victim,” we might consider the possibility that for many, defending Bayless as a sports broadcaster doing his job is more about NFL entertainment than the well-being of the players said entertainment are reliant on.)
And ultimately, his fate as a sports analyzer won’t be decided by randoms on Twitter. But we should all be able to admit that there are a lot of people who work in a lot of different professions who would have been fired for being this tone-deaf while on the job. And most of those people wouldn’t expect folks to line up to defend them and their employment.
Let’s be real about one thing: If your loved one was nearly killed when a building under construction collapsed, you would be pretty pissed off if the first thing a journalist reported on was how the incident would affect the project’s progress and payment for all the contractors who have been working so hard. You would be less inclined to defend that journalist if it was you and yours who were fighting for their lives.
The fact is that Bayless should have known better than to even fix himself to tweet what he did in the moment of Hamlin’s injury and at a time when things like CTE are central to the conversation around the NFL and its responsibility for the health of its players.
Anyway, on Tuesday, Bayless took the time to address and apologize not for his tweet, but for the way he might offend people while covering Hamlin on his show.
“I apologize for what for what we’re going to set out to do here today, if it offends anyone because we’re going to try to do the show pretty much as we usually do the show,” he said. “I’ll admit up front that I’m still shook up what happened last night to Damar Hamlin. In fact, I’m still wrecked. In fact, I’m not sure I’m capable of doing this show today.”
Neither are we, Skip. Neither are we.