The NFL disputed what announcer Joe Buck said on Monday night about plans to resume the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game after Damar Hamlin collapsed, but ESPN is standing by the on-air report.
Fans and the media were highly critical of the NFL for not suspending the game until more than an hour after Hamlin’s life-threatening injury occurred. ESPN went to commercial numerous times after the medical emergency, but they also brought back the broadcast team and allowed Buck to provide updates. On three separate occasions, Buck mentioned that the NFL had given teams a five-minute warmup period, which was an indication that the plan was to resume the game.
Buck said he had gotten the word “from the league” and “from down on the field.”
NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent held a conference call with reporters after the game. He said there was never any directive from him or anyone else with the league to have players warm up in anticipation of resuming play. Vincent called the claim “ridiculous” and “insensitive.”
If what Vincent said was true, that would mean Buck and ESPN made a big error and/or misinterpreted the information they received from the NFL.
ESPN issued a statement on Tuesday reiterating that the information Buck relayed came from the network’s “constant communication” with the league.
“There was constant communication in real time between ESPN and league and game officials,” the statement said, via Jeff Howe of The Athletic. “As a result of that, we reported what we were told in the moment and immediately updated fans as new information was learned. This was an unprecedented, rapidly-evolving circumstance. All night long, we refrained from speculation.”
Many people were left with the impression that the NFL planned to resume play until Bengals coach Zac Taylor and Bills coach Sean McDermott stepped in. It is unclear if that is what actually happened.
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 unique situation. Rather than implying Buck and ESPN got it wrong, the league would have been better off admitting that.
This content was originally published here.