Far-Right Trolls Are Already Spreading Anti-Vax Conspiracies About Damar Hamlin

It took mere minutes for anti-vaxxers to flood social media with claims the NFL player’s collapse was caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.
Damar Hamlin, #3 of the Buffalo Bills, reacts after making a play during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Highmark Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. (Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

Within minutes of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsing on the field on Monday night, anti-vaxxers were posting wild conspiracies blaming the NFL star’s condition on the COVID-19 vaccine.

Hamlin collapsed after an innocuous-looking tackle on Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins in the sixth minute of the first quarter. Higgins’ helmet hit Hamlin in the head and chest area, but Hamlin initially stood up after the tackle, then collapsed.


In a statement posted on Twitter in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Bills said that Hamlin “suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit in our game versus the Bengals. His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment. He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.”

But even before the game was officially called off on Monday night, conspiracies about Hamlin’s injury were spreading like wildfire on social media, where conspiracy theorists and right-wing trolls claimed that Hamlin had “died suddenly” because he had received the COVID-19 vaccination.

On Twitter, multiple accounts made completely unproven connections between Hamlin’s collapse and the COVID vaccine.

“I know what everyone with any common sense is thinking,” former Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield tweeted. “This isn’t the first time a pro athlete had this happen,” he added, alongside two needle emojis.

Meanwhile, Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, tweeted to his 1.9 million followers: “This is a tragic and all too familiar sight right now: Athletes dropping suddenly.”

Stew Peters, the far-right podcaster behind the viral Died Suddenly conspiracy film,  tweeted: “It appears Hamlin may have #diedsuddently aged 24.”


The account for Peters’ film, which has over 200,000 followers, also tweeted about Hamlin’s collapse.

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Like the other accounts mentioned above, the Died Suddenly account has a verified blue checkmark as a result of Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s new subscription service, which allows anyone to buy a verified badge for $8.

Musk on Sunday indicated that Twitter could even further boost COVID conspiracy theories when he announced that something called “Fauci Files” would be released this week—suggesting an attack on former chief White House adviser and face of the national COVID response, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

On more fringe platforms like Telegram, users in conspiracy channels rushed to comment on the baseless connection between Hamlin’s collapse and the vaccine.

Some linked to fake Twitter accounts claiming to belong to the doctor who gave Hamlin his booster in December, while many linked to comments from cardiologist Peter McCullough, who has touted ivermectin as a cure for COVID-19 despite multiple studies showing no evidence that it works. After the Bills announced that Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field, McCullough claimed in an interview Silicon Valley entrepreneur and COVID misinformation superspreader Steve Kirsch that the vaccine could have caused his collapse.

“I watched the play live both as a fan and a cardiologist and I saw blunt neck and chest trauma, a brief recovery after the tackle and then a classic cardiac arrest,” McCullough said. “I have communicated to one of the most experienced trainers in the world and we agree that it was a cardiac arrest in the setting of a big surge of adrenalin. If Damar Hamlin indeed took one of the COVID-19 vaccines, then subclinical vaccine-induced myocarditis must be considered in the differential diagnosis.”


One commentator on a QAnon Telegram channel suggested that the doctors speaking about Hamlin’s injury on TV were covering something up by failing to ask if he was vaxxed—and claimed this was part of a wider conspiracy against men.

“The TV doctors have not asked if Hamlin was c19 vaxxed,” the user wrote. “Instead, they are talking about the safety/health issues about football as a contact sport. The [New World Order] agenda is about feminization of men.”

Ever since the COVID vaccine rolled out, anti-vaxxers have been jumping on any sudden death or injury suffered by a high-profile individual as proof that the vaccine is “poison.”

Celebrities including Coolio, who died in September of a suspected cardiac arrest, and sportspeople like cricketer Shane Warne, who died last March of a suspected heart attack, have been subject to similar, baseless speculation in the last year.

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