As the evidence continues to mount against former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, and new allegations come to life, his old organization is doing everything they can to distance themselves from the man they once agreed to pay $40 million to employ.
Hernandez was arrested on June 26 and charged with the first degree murder of Odin Lloyd—a semi-pro football player and “acquaintance” of the Pro Bowl tight end—as well as five additional gun charges. The Pats acted swiftly and released him shortly after.
In the two weeks that have followed police and prosecutors have begun to paint a clearer picture of the type of man Hernandez was. Reports surfaced of an ’07 Gainesville shooting that the tight end was questioned for, as well as records that he sucker punched a club bouncer (and avoided charges due to his stature as a UF athlete). More recently, Hernandez has been tied to a February shooting that left 30 year old Alexander Bradley without an eye in Miami.
But perhaps what’s most troubling is the allegations that Lloyd was executed because he had knowledge of Hernandez’s involvement with a double-murder case in Boston from 2012. Bristol, Conn. police recently confiscated a silver SUV with Rhode Island plates from Hernandez’s uncle’s house which matched the description of a vehicle police had been looking for in connection with the homicides.
No matter how you look at it, one by one Hernandez’s domino’s are falling all the wrong ways, so it comes as no surprise that the Pats are going above and beyond to eliminate all memory of their once beloved ballplayer. First the team stopped selling all jerseys and merchandise associated with the alleged killer, next his stats were erased from the team’s website, but then New England took it one step further and came up with the PR move of the decade—they offered fans a free jersey of equal value in exchange for any Hernandez Pat’s jerseys.
This past Saturday and Sunday the team opened up their Gillette Stadium Pro Shop doors for fans off all ages to turn their No. 81 or No. 85 Hernandez jerseys in for another jersey of their choice. On Saturday alone close to 1,200 fans took advantage of the unique barter offer, including more than 300 children. ESPN estimated the move cost the Pats close to $166,000 in revenue lost. But freeing their stadium of Hernandez’s name when next season kicks off is a priceless move for an organization desperate to clean its hands.
In the weeks following Hernandez’s arrest jersey sales for the troubled star have skyrocketed on sites like eBay, leading to bidding wars and four-figure prices for ones that were autographed. The Patriots knew that demand was high, so they bit the bullet (no pun intended) and took the revenue hit in an attempt to get his name in team colors off the streets.
In an unrelated, though highly coincidental move, the Patriots also released a new team logo last week, abandoning their famous cursive font for a block lettered look. The change was apparently two years in the making, and will only appear in their end zone design for 2013. Due to an NFL rule that stipulates teams can’t change their jerseys more than once every five years, the script written will remain on the team’s jerseys and merchandise until the following season.
For the Pats, distancing themselves from a player who was once such a prominent part of their organization is no easy task, but thanks to a few quick decisions by Robert Kraft they’re at least taking strides in the right direction. Too bad the hardest part of this whole process is going to be moving forward on the field, where the team will be without their deadliest weapon.
This article was originally published on TDdaily.com