LOS ANGELES, June 26, 2013 — The National Football League took another big black eye with the arrest of New England Patriots wide receiver Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez was arrested Wednesday for the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. While Hernandez has the presumption of innocence, the situation does not look good for him. He is also being accused of destroying evidence, and his past history is a violent one. Yet his future was once more than promising. In 2011, Hernandez was in the Super Bowl. 2012 saw him and his team one game away. 2013 saw him with a bright future, including a $40 million contract. Now it is all gone.
Two hours after his arrest, the Patriots cut him. NFL contracts are non-guaranteed and contain morals clauses. The legal aspect of this situation will be sorted out in the courts. Yet the stain of this horrible episode will linger over the entire 2013 Patriots season and perhaps the entire NFL as well.
This is worse than the Ray Lewis situation in 2000. Lewis was arrested for a double-murder, but that case involved an overzealous prosecutor. Lewis was never accused of being the killer or hiring any killer. The rap on him was that he knew who did it. At worst, he was an uncooperative witness.
Hernandez was initially thought to be involved in Odin’s murder in a peripheral manner. Yet the police investigation that unfolded over several days led law enforcement to graduate Hernandez from a person of interest to the prime suspect.
This is worse for the league than the O.J. Simpson case because Simpson was long retired at the time. Hernandez was in the prime of his career on one of the most talented teams in the league.
The NFL will trot out the usual statements, which are factually true. The number of players committing such crimes are a lower percentage than the population at large. Celebrities simply have their crimes magnified, especially in the age of Twitter and Facebook.
The NFL will point out that the league conducts an annual rookie symposium. Before players ever play a single NFL game, they receive lectures from players past and present cautioning them about the pitfalls of easy money at such a young age. Players are matched with financial advisors, health counselors and other mentors to prepare them for life after football when the big checks no longer arrive.
All of that is true. Yet the perception could turn out to be that the NFL is in more trouble than it has ever been before. 2012 may have been the worst year in its history. Last summer, the season began with the tragic suicide of Junior Seau. Throughout the year there were several more suicides, the murder-suicide horror of Jovan Belcher, and a drunk driving accident that killed one player and ended the career of his teammate, the driver.
The season ended with a thrilling Super Bowl game, but dark clouds hung over the NFL.
Now the 2013 season is still three months away, yet the worst horrors of society are continuing to affect the league. Commissioner Roger Goodell has cracked down hard on bad behavior, but there are no policies that can be put in place to prevent guys from committing murder.
Even though there is nothing the league could have done to have stopped Hernandez’s destructive path, he will still be haunting the league like Banquo’s ghost every time his face is on television.
This is a human tragedy and grieving for Lloyd’s family is appropriate. Yet try as the NFL might wish it otherwise, this is also a football tragedy. The NFL is under siege, and a tiny chorus of individuals want the game banned entirely. However, enough people love football to prevent this from becoming reality any time soon.
Yet if these black eyes keep coming, one day children will ask their grandparent about a game that used to be played involving an oblate spheroid.
May that day never come, despite the horror show that has become Aaron Hernandez.
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog. Follow us: @wtcommunities on Twitter
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