It all makes Hernandez look very, very guilty. Maybe not of murder, but certainly of knowing the details and of trying to cover things up. That said, Hernandez has now been formally charged with murder. Yet in response to just his arrest and the above various bits of public knowledge, the New England Patriots released Aaron Hernandez from the team well before the charges were announced:
"A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss," the statement from the Patriots read. "Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do."Got that? The Patriots organization is not waiting for the dust to settle, for Hernandez to have his day in court, it's done with him, end of story. Hernandez now moves to waiver-status and he could be claimed by another team. But will any other team take him? Doubtful.
One might ask if the Patriots would have responded differently if it was Tom Brady we were talking about. And I guess that's a fair question. But of course, Brady would likely have never put himself in such a position. Moreover, Hernandez is a star player in his own right; he's not a second or third tier player at all. In dumping him, the Patriots risk a big salary cap hit. Clearly, the people running the show there knew this is going to turn into a no-win situation.
For those that say Hernandez's release shows what a class act the Patriots organization is, how other teams might have stood by their star player, even helped him if possible, let's remember this is the same organization that got hit with major penalties in 2007 for signal stealing (the so-called "Spygate" scandal). So let's not pretend the Patriots organization is significantly more "classy" than any other one in the NFL. It's still almost all about winning. And PR.
Which leads us to the obvious comparison here: the Ray Lewis murder trial in 2000. Then--a mere thirteen years ago--the Baltimore Ravens organization stood by Lewis largely throughout the ordeal. He was never released and following the plea deal he reached with prosecutors, Lewis went on to play another thirteen seasons in the NFL, all with the Ravens. Many people to this day believe Lewis literally got away with murder. But he went on to win two Super Bowls, along with various league-issued accolades like Pro Bowl selections and Defensive Player of the Year titles.