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It was a difficult week for the NFL following Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin‘s on-field cardiac arrest.
Given the sensitivity of Hamlin’s harrowing scene, one player’s CPR celebration from Sunday sparked backlash, understandably so.
Now, the player is publicly apologizing for the controversial move.
Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith spoke out on Monday after a teammate pretended to perform CPR on him during Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns. Highsmith was celebrating a sack on Deshaun Watson when he got on his back and Steelers lineman Demarvin Leal rushed over to give him fake chest compressions.
It’s a celebration that’s been seen plenty in the NFL. But less than a week since the Bills medical staff had to perform nine minutes of CPR on Hamlin to keep him alive, some thought it was done in poor taste.
The Steelers defeated the Browns, 28-14.
Highsmith Says He Has Nothing But Respect for Hamlin
Highsmith stated in his apology that the celebration had nothing to do with Hamlin and that he was apologetic for the bad timing.
“I just don’t want people to think of me that way and think I was doing anything [intentional]. Because I would never, ever, ever, ever want to do that intentionally, and I never, ever would do that,” Highsmith admitted, as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Steelers defender also saw a fair swell of people call his celebration harmless. Highsmith reiterated his support for Hamlin’s recovery and health.
He shared that he and his wife prayed for Hamlin’s recovery as the week progressed since his cardiac arrest.
Highsmith added, “I just want people to know that I have nothing but love for Damar and his family. When that happened, I was shook for a couple days. Me and my wife, we were watching the game, we immediately saw it and intentionally started praying, intentionally prayed for him, his parents, the doctors, the nurses.
“Because me and her, we’re both followers of Christ. We both believe that prayer is powerful, and I’m just thankful for the miraculous work God has done with Damar’s life. I just want people to know that there was nothing intentional about that. It was never planned. None of that.”
After making considerable progress, Hamlin was able to watch the Bills’ Week 18 win over the New England Patriots. Hamlin also shared a video call with his team after the victory.
By most accounts, Highsmith — a 2020 third-round pick out of Charlotte — appears to be an average guy who probably couldn’t read the room in the moment.
Highsmith still received his fair share of criticism.