Unless you live under a rock you have heard that Aaron Hernandez, the former tight end of the New England Patriots, is accused of first degree murder. The Patriots reacted immediately by releasing Hernandez to separate their brand from an accused murderer. The Patriots have taken it a step further.
The Patriots have offered to do a jersey exchange with fans in the possession of a Hernandez jersey on July 6-7th. The franchise will provide the fans with a jersey of comparative price.
A spokeswoman for the Patriots released this statement on the jersey exchange:
“We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don’t want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore,” Patriots spokesperson Stacey James said in a statement. “We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another player’s jersey will be well received by parents.”
Of course the parents of those children are hawking their jerseys for big bucks on Ebay. The No. 81 is going for around three times their original price.
Meanwhile, the Patriots are demonstrating their full committed to distancing themselves with Hernandez even at their own expense. This includes the $4.1 million in dead money on their cap this season, with a bigger hit of $8.6 million the following year.
Are the Patriots doing the right thing?
The Patriots franchise is a well-oiled machine. This is not about them saving money, but preserving the “Patriot Way.” There is no way that the Patriots could have known that Hernandez would involve himself in the Lloyd homicide when they signed his contract last summer. In fact Kraft, the owner of the Pats, had said after signing the deal last August that Hernandez was a super guy. Hernandez kept himself out of trouble for three seasons well excelling on the field. He passed drug tests, wasn’t arrested and kept his head down in and out of the locker room. The only issue that is being discussed was that he was a lone wolf and rarely spent time with the team outside of practice and games. This cannot be seen as a ‘sign’ of things to come. The Patriots immediate release and jersey exchange program may seem a bit rash when Hernandez has only been accused and not sentenced, but clearly the Pats image means more to them.
The only real blame we can currently lay on the Patriots organization is the structure of the contract that Hernandez signed. It oddly does not have a ‘failure to perform’ clause that most NFL contracts contain. Some may say that the blame can be laid if Hernandez is found innocent and returns to NFL; but the Patriots have surely assessed that possibility and decided they are better off losing several million than employing someone with violence attached his name.