News Release

National Football League honored for lifesaving efforts in CPR education and AED access

American Heart Association bestows highest award for meritorious community service

Grant and Award Announcement

American Heart Association

CHICAGO, June 11, 2024 — The American Heart Association, celebrating 100 years of lifesaving service, recognized the National Football League (NFL) with its Award of Meritorious Achievement Monday night. The award, the highest honor the organization bestows, was presented to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during ceremonies celebrating the founding of the American Heart Association. The Association was created 100 years ago this week at the Drake hotel in downtown Chicago. The NFL has collaborated with the American Heart Association for nearly a quarter of that century to promote health and fitness with youth. The NFL received the Association’s Award of Meritorious Achievement for the league’s recent CPR awareness outreach and support of community-based CPR training.

On January 2, 2023, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on national television during Monday Night Football. Hamlin’s recovery is a testament to the lifesaving power of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), as well as the extraordinary preparedness of the NFL and its member clubs.

Only 1 in 10 people who experience cardiac arrest outside of the hospital currently survive, in part because CPR is performed less than half the time[1]. Yet, the science indicates that CPR, especially if performed immediately, can double or triple survival rates.

The NFL, understanding the opportunity to potentially save lives, began using its powerful brand platform to drive global awareness and behavior change. In doing so, it turned legions of worldwide football fans into lifesavers.

In 2023, the NFL also established the Smart Heart Sports Coalition with the American Heart Association and Damar Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation as founding members. Today the coalition works in all 50 states to adopt evidence-based public policies that will prevent fatal outcomes from sudden cardiac arrest among high school students. Since the founding of the coalition, more than a dozen states have signed these policies into law. Work also continues at the federal level to pass bipartisan legislation that will improve the chain of survival in elementary and secondary schools by authorizing federal assistance to school districts to develop and implement cardiac emergency response plans, purchase AEDs and related equipment, and CPR and AED training of students, staff and sports coaches. In addition, the NFL committed $1 million to its clubs to further drive CPR training and awareness at the local community level.

“The Award of Meritorious Achievement is a testament to the NFL’s unwavering dedication to fostering healthy communities,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Our journey with the American Heart Association began with the NFL’s PLAY 60 initiative, inspiring youth across the country to live healthy lifestyles. Over the past few years, our relationship has evolved to spearhead CPR education and AED access, ensuring our communities are equipped to act as lifesavers. We’re proud to champion these vital initiatives alongside our partners at the American Heart Association and remain committed to promoting health and wellness for all.”

The American Heart Association also named Goodell a member of its CEO Roundtable – a leadership collective of nearly 50 chief executive officers who work collaboratively with the American Heart Association to build and sustain a healthy, high performing workforce for more than 13 million collective employees and family members. A top priority for member organizations is providing CPR and AED education and resources to their respective employee populations.

The focused CPR outreach is working. Thanks in part to the combined efforts of the Association, the National Football League, and other community supporters, more than a third of surveyed adults (35%) in the U.S. say they now feel they have the confidence to perform CPR – a 16% increase (30% in 2022) in the last two years[2].

"From physical activity programming for children, to CPR education and emergency response planning on sports fields, the NFL continually demonstrates its commitment to heart health and safety, as well as social responsibility,” said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association. “There is still work to be done. As the American Heart Association celebrates 100 years of lifesaving service, we are proud to stand alongside Commissioner Goodell and the NFL as we build a nation of lifesavers.”

The Nation of Lifesavers™ movement is the Association’s most recent commitment to CPR with the declaration to double survival rates of cardiac arrest by 2030.
Hands-Only CPR training at Super Bowl and Draft fan experiences and ongoing activation at NFL clubs with the support of NFL Foundation grants have resulted in an estimated 30,000 people trained since 2023.

The Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks have hosted American Heart Association training and education opportunities for staff or their communities. The Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons have made their own multi-year investments in community CPR education.

For more than six decades, the American Heart Association has led the way as the global leader in resuscitation science, education and training, and as the official publisher of the scientific guidelines for CPR. The multi-year Nation of Lifesavers initiative supports CPR education, extends AED use and engages employers, policymakers, philanthropists and others to increase the chain of survival. The long-term goal is to ensure that in the face of a cardiac emergency, everyone, everywhere is prepared and empowered to perform CPR. More than 350,000 people suffer out of hospital cardiac arrest every year.

For more information and to join the Nation of Lifesavers, visit heart.org/nation.

Additional Resources:

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About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for a century. During 2024 - our Centennial year - we celebrate our rich 100-year history and accomplishments. As we forge ahead into our second century of bold discovery and impact our vision is to advance health and hope for everyone, everywhere. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookX or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1. 


[1] Emory University. (2024). CARES 2023 Annual Report. Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival - 2023 Annual Report. (www.mycares.net)

[2] 2021 and 2023 Hands Only CPR Insights surveys, available upon request.


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