As NFL players prepare to take the field for the last Sunday of the regular season, a prominent pastor and activist offered a prayer for NFL players and Damar Hamlin, the 24-year-old Buffalo Bills safety who went into cardiac arrest after making a tackle in Cincinnati Jan. 2.
The Rev. William Barber II offered a prayer that stressed the humanity of Hamlin and all NFL players as the league played its first full slate of games since Hamlin’s injury.
“We pray for the league itself, the NFL, that it may never see the players as just pieces of an economic engine, but as people without whom the sport would not exist,” he said.
Barber asked for comfort for every player and player’s family shaken by the sight of Hamlin receiving CPR for nine minutes on the field and for all NFL players who have been injured by the game.
“May this moment cause us who see the game to recognize the players as people, not just competitors on a field, but fathers, brothers, uncles, husbands, sons and grandsons. Help us, oh God, to repent of all the times we have forgotten this.”
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, thanked Barber for the prayer and said in a statement that he and Barber were “both moved by the unity on display not only by Bills and Bengals players, but by NFL players across our league and everyone in our community.”
Barber’s prayer is one of several public invocations for Hamlin. Bills chaplain Len Vanden Bos led a prayer as players and staff knelt in a circle at Paycor Stadium in the moments after Hamlin’s injury. ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky prayed for Hamlin on air the next day.
Praise for progress
Barber’s prayer asks God to heal Hamlin and offers praise for his improvement. Hamlin was released from an Ohio hospital Monday (Jan. 9) and was transferred to a hospital in Buffalo to continue his recovery.
Barber’s prayer celebrated the millions of dollars donated to the Chasing M’s Children Foundation, a GoFundMe started by Hamlin in 2020 that provides toys and support for children in need in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh.
Hamlin’s on-camera injury has highlighted the Christian elements of NFL culture while reigniting debates about the safety and ethics of the sport.
Barber concludes his prayer by asking God to remember every person in the human family, especially those who face sudden tragedy. “Let this moment open up our conscience to care about all people in need and remind us how quickly in the blinking of an eye things can change for any family.”