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EA Sports to pull Madden touchdown celebration after Damar Hamlin’s collapse

The CPR animation had been in the game for three years

Damar Hamlin, in blue uniform with white helmet, raising his arms in celebration during play in a victory over Pittsburgh.
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin in action Oct. 9 in a 38-3 victory over Pittsburgh at Orchard Park, New York.
Photo: Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

EA Sports will pull a touchdown celebration from Madden NFL 23 that, in light of the frightening collapse of the Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin last week, is now highly inappropriate.

In the video game cutscene, which is one of the “team” celebration options that players have been able to trigger with the right thumbstick for the past three years, one player on the scoring team lies on the ground while another teammate pretends to revive him with CPR. A third appears to jolt him with a defibrillator.

All of that was really funny until Hamlin fell to the ground after tackling the Cincinnati Bengals’ Tee Higgins on Monday Night Football on Jan. 2, and trainers and emergency personnel sprinted out to the field to perform the real thing. They very literally saved Hamlin’s life after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field; the second-year safety was discharged from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center on Monday, and he has returned to the Buffalo area for ongoing care and recovery.

But over the past week, Madden NFL fans recalled the celebration animation and posted clips of it online. It prompted a statement from an EA Sports representative, who told CBS Sports that the company is “taking steps to remove the celebration from Madden NFL 23.”

CBS Sports noted that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith pantomimed CPR compressions on a teammate after sacking the Cleveland Browns’ Deshaun Watson in their season finale on Sunday. So it’s not like EA Sports invented this scenario for laughs without any real-life inspiration. Highsmith apologized for his actions on Monday.

On Sunday, Buffalo’s Nyheim Hines returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, ushering the rival New England Patriots out of playoff contention in a 35-23 victory that solidified the Bills as the AFC’s No. 2 seed. “The truth is, it was spiritual,” Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen said. “I can’t remember a play that touched me like that.”

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