Twenty days after his collapse, Damar Hamlin has attended a playoff game against the Bengals. American Anti-Vaxxers picked apart the news coverage and online posts documenting his return to the stadium. They say that pro Football Player’s glasses and face covering were a disguise and attributed the blurry shots of him not to a raging snowstorm, but to a more sinister coverup. Also mentioned is that he never took off his ski mask inside or outside of the building, as well as none of his family members not being in the same box as the star player throughout the game. Thousands of posts across social media suggested that Hamlin was dead or that his appearance had been somehow faked. Hashtags such as #WhereIsDamarHamlin and #Bodydouble, were trending on Twitter that night. Hamlin’s on-field injury posed a unique opportunity for anti-vaccine activists to reach new audiences. About 23 million people were watching the football game during which he collapsed. As a medical team worked on him, anti-vaccine activists flooded social media sites with unfounded claims that a vaccine was somehow to blame. Hamlin’s injury came during a surge in anti-vaccine misinformation that attributes any recent death, without evidence, to vaccines. Fox News host Tucker Carlson has also amplified the false theories, including the unsupported claim that vaccine-related cardiac arrests have increased among athletes. Dallas cardiologist and anti-vaccine podcaster Peter McCullough claimed on Carlson’s show that “vaccine-induced myocarditis” may have caused Hamlin’s injury.
Neither Hamlin nor the Buffalo Bills responded to requests for comment.