Late Monday night, more than 24 hours after the Cincinnati Bengals upset the Buffalo Bills, cornerback Eli Apple was still celebrating the victory with some trash-talking on Twitter.
His main subject was Stefon Diggs, mocking the Bills wide receiver and retweeting a handful of other fans trolling Diggs and the Bills, but one tweet seemed to rub many the wrong way.
After Diggs tweeted “It’s easy to criticize my reaction more than the result,” Apple quote-tweeted him with the caption, “Cancun on 3” and accompanied it with the hands making a heart emoji.
Many interpreted Apple’s tweet as disrespect and mocking Damar Hamlin, who gave the heart symbol with his hands as he recovered from his cardiac arrest in the hospital. The emoji has become closely associated with the Bills and wishing Hamlin well in his recovery. Hamlin made the gesture again on Sunday when he was shown watching the game from a suite.
Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson appeared to be among those who believed Apple was indeed disrespecting Hamlin with the emoji.
About half an hour after Lawson tweeted that, Apple sent out another tweet saying he would never make light of such an unfortunate situation.
This is not the first time Apple has found himself in the center of attention among fans on social media. Last year, after defeating the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round, Apple blasted the fan bases of the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints — his two previous teams.
That did not bode well for him later when Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp dominated him in the Super Bowl, leading to “burnt toast” memes to describe Apple’s play, some of which came from other players in the league.
With Apple going up against a dynamic Chiefs offense led by Patrick Mahomes, his critics will be quick to pounce on the first mistake he makes in the AFC Championship Game.
Then again, Joe Burrow is 3-0 against the Chiefs and the Bengals beat them in Arrowhead last year. So Apple could walk out with the last laugh if the Bengals are victorious.