It's unclear when or even if Monday's Bills vs. Bengals game will be resumed. The Buffalo Bills gather as an ambulance parks on the field while CPR is administered to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) after a play in the first quarter of the NFL Week 17 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills at Paycor Stadium in Downtown Cincinnati on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. The game was suspended with suspended in the first quarter after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) was taken away in an ambulance following a play. Xxx Sdsyndication The Enquirer 5533 Jpg Oh

One of the very strange stories that have played out in the wake of the Damar Hamlin injury that led to a Monday Night Football postponement is the people who have tried to suggest that Hamlin’s collapse was in some way related to COVID-19 vaccines.

There has been a lot of talk on that front, despite no evidence to support that take. Ron Filipkowski tweeted some of that Monday:

Another notable tweet there, even if it didn’t explicitly mention Hamlin (but it did include a #Bills), came from U.S. House of Representatives member Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia):

And yet another one came from “Dr. Drew” Pinsky:

As Washington Post national columnist Phillip Bump wrote Tuesday, there really isn’t anything to suggest any sort of vaccine link here. Indeed, Bump called these framing efforts “inevitable” and “grotesque,” starting with a takedown of Kirk’s take:

“This is a tragic and all too familiar sight right now,” Kirk wrote on Twitter: “Athletes dropping suddenly.”

To someone outside of the narrative bubble that Kirk inhabits — the bubble Kirk actively inflates — this reads as a sober analysis of some subtle trend. To anyone familiar with Kirk and the right’s efforts to undercut confidence in coronavirus vaccines, though, what he’s saying is very obvious. Which was his point.

There are a few layers here that are worth picking out.

The first is the purported connection between “athletes dropping” and coronavirus vaccines. In short, a number of injuries, illnesses and unexpected performances have been linked without evidence to the athletes’ having been vaccinated. It’s quite explicitly cherry-picking: Anything even remotely linked to circulatory issues has been lumped into a vast “just asking questions!!” universe of suspicion, generally by those on the political right. It’s not that there is a demonstrable increase in illness among athletes; it’s that any illness in any athlete at any level now becomes fodder for inclusion in that universe. That some 70,000 Americans under the age of 45 have strokes each year means there are lots of cherries that might be plucked.

Bump’s point here is well-taken. There’s absolutely nothing so far to connect the Hamlin situation to the COVID-19 vaccines. And doing so without evidence is a blatantly political move. But it’s one that appears to be resonating with the bases of the people making that claim.

[The Washington Post; photo from The Cincinnati Enquirer, via USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.