SBD/June 27, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Aaron Hernandez Arrest: NFL Deals With Another Blemish To Its Image

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Hernandez (c) is one of 29 NFL players who have been arrested since Super Bowl XLVII
Former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez’ arrest on a murder charge “will be the dominant NFL topic until training camps open next month,’ and that is a “black mark on the league that won’t go away any time soon,” according to Gene Frenette of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. This is “not the kind of publicity the NFL wants on its doorstep.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “takes great pride in the league’s personal conduct policy that suspends players who engage in questionable behavior,” but the policy “isn’t looking like much of a deterrent.” If Goodell “thought he had a major headache” in dealing with the ‘11 CBA, that is a “stroll in the park compared to the public relations nightmare now dumped in his lap: two murder-related player arrests in less than 24 hours.” Browns rookie LB Ausar Walcott yesterday was charged with attempted murder (JACKSONVILLE.com, 6/26). In Phoenix, Dan Bickley wrote under the header, “NFL Hit With Another Image Problem.” Bickley wrote, “Goodell better get his arms around this situation, and fast” (AZCENTRAL.com, 6/26). In Orlando, George Diaz writes Hernandez’ “freshly minted mug shot … does not paint a flattering picture of the NFL” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 6/27). In N.Y., Steve Serby writes, “No matter how hard Goodell tries, no matter how many times he metes out Above the Law Goodell justice, we are constantly reminded that the NFL -- among others -- remains a league of pros and cons” (N.Y. POST, 6/27).

A GROWING TREND? In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan notes Hernandez' arrest “makes 29 NFL players who have been arrested since the Super Bowl.” Sullivan: "I’m sure someone could quote me statistics that suggest football players aren’t any more prone to violence than any other group of young American males. But for today, I’ll save my compassion for the victim and the friends and family he left behind” (BUFFALO NEWS, 6/27). In Jacksonville, Don Coble wrote under the header, “Aaron Hernandez Joins A Growing List That Should Trouble NFL.” Hernandez yesterday “joined the dubious list of 55 NFL players who’ve been arrested in the last calendar year” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 6/26). The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola said he understands the NFL is "focused kind of on concussions right now," but league execs have to "really start focusing on the behavior of their players" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 6/26). But NBC Sports Network's Dave Briggs said of the numerous arrests, "Will it hurt the television ratings? No. Will it hurt the attendance? No" ("Today," NBC, 6/27).

PICTURES SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS: NFL Network's Jeff Darlington reported from the NFL's Rookie Symposium that attendees were "stunned and captivated" by the Hernandez proceedings. Darlington added NFL Senior VP/Player Engagement Troy Vincent "told the players that they could speak on this if they wanted to, but to have wisdom should they decide to publicly speak about it." Vincent noted that he "would not use this as a learning lesson" at the symposium but instead the "television speaks for itself." Darlington: "They can see exactly what's happening on TV" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 6/26).

THE GEAR IS GONE: USA TODAY’s Dan Wolken reports Hernandez’ No. 81 jersey was “no longer available for sale at the NFL's online store” less than an hour after he was charged with murder yesterday. NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy in an e-mail wrote, "We decided it was the appropriate step to take.” As of 3:15pm ET yesterday, “three versions of the No. 81 jersey were still available for $99.99 on NFLshop.com.” By 3:40pm, the “links for Hernandez merchandise were defunct.” Online retailer Fanatics VP/Communications & Corporate Branding Meier Raivich said, "The merchandise will no longer be available due to the current circumstances" (USA TODAY, 6/27). In Boston, Gayle Fee reports “all evidence of Aaron Hernandez has disappeared from Gillette Stadium.” The team after his arrest “ordered all Hernandez swag out of the Pro Shop and it will, in all likelihood, be destroyed.” Jerseys and merchandise “referencing other departed Pats ... are generally put on a sale rack.” But due to the “rather ugly circumstances of Hernandez’s departure, the team didn’t want any more blue-and-silver Hernandez shirts leaving the building and scarring the Patriots brand” (BOSTON HERALD, 6/27).
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