The collapse of Buffalo Bill’s player Damar Hamlin provides an opportunity for crisis management consideration and preparedness.
- 24-year-old safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed during Monday’s football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals.
- He is currently in critical condition and being treated at the ICU of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
- Players from both teams respected their fellow players by standing by the injured player, postponing the remainder of the game for an indeterminate date.
- The NFL decided not to continue play, even though the outcome is key to the league’s playoff picture.
- Forbes notes that the situation provides an opportunity for executives and leaders to emulate—or not—this example of effective crisis management as thousands of people work together to save Hamlin’s life.
Why It’s Important
Nobody expected what happened on Monday, and everybody watched Hamlin collapse during the live broadcast as it happened. Many social-media responders are criticizing the NFL for reacting too slowly. The response of emergency technicians and the league was slow, but it took time to stabilize Hamlin, get him off the field, and to the hospital to be cared for appropriately.
While it did take league officials more than an hour to decide the game would not continue Monday night, they did ultimately come to that conclusion. Had they continued play after a brief delay, players, coaches, and fans stunned by the devastating injury would have been disappointed and traumatized even more. The NFL was ultimately right to postpone the game, many agree, even as it took time for the shock to wear off and make the decision.
“While the decision to postpone the game took longer than I would have liked, the fact that they did come to that decision is a great lesson in leadership. Knowing when to put the human being above the profession or business is incredibly important,” says Otter Public Relations publicist David Triani.
In an emergency, leaders have to respond at the moment. The NFL’s priority was to protect Hamlin, and the immediate reaction was to open communication between first responders and everyone in that stadium, to which it claims “there couldn’t have been more collaboration throughout this process by all parties.”
Surprises like this are reminders that contingencies are always necessary for unforeseen and unexpected events. Leaders need to have plans in place, be trained, and be ready to face the eventuality of a crisis, and they need teams in place who are prepared to handle the crisis when it does arise, Forbes notes.
“It’s not often that business leaders have an opportunity to learn from a crisis that plays out in front of their eyes. Company executives had that chance Sunday night … How the NFL and the Buffalo Bills responded to the situation provides the latest example of the crisis communication best practices to follow for those who have to deal with a crisis at their company or organization,” says Forbes.