SBD/July 1, 2013/Franchises

Patriots Were "Taken Aback" By Hernandez Murder Charge; Offering Free Jersey Exchange

Replica Hernandez jerseys can be exchanged for those of other players at no cost
Patriots Owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick decided late last week to release TE Aaron Hernandez if he were "to be arrested in connection with the murder in any way," but they "expected Hernandez to be arrested for obstruction of justice, and were 'taken aback' when he was charged with murder," according to a source cited by Ben Volin of the BOSTON GLOBE. The source said, "We had no inside knowledge. Did it matter to us? No. We were not going to have somebody on the team that’s close to a murder." Volin noted the Patriots will "carry significant cap charges for Hernandez over the next two years," but NFLPA records "show -- and the source confirmed -- that the team has voided all of Hernandez’s remaining guaranteed money," which totals $5.91M. But the Patriots believe that the NFL’s bylaws and CBA have "specific language about 'conduct detrimental to the best interests of professional football' that works in favor of them voiding all future payments to Hernandez, including an installment of his signing bonus." The source said, "It was guaranteed for skill and injury, but it wasn’t guaranteed for personal conduct that cast the club in a negative light, and that’s why we cut him. We know the CBA. We are well within our rights." The source also said that the team will "try to recoup previous bonus money awarded to Hernandez, though it could be tough given Hernandez’s significant legal fees" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/29).

PATRIOT WAY GONE ASTRAY? In Boston, Joan Vennochi wrote under the header, "Without Myra, The Patriots Lost Their Way." The "Patriot Way" was a play called by the late Myra Kraft "17 years ago -- and has been out of favor for a long time." The Patriots are "not alone in gambling on players with troubled histories," but what "sets them apart is their ability to sell a myth for as long as they did." It took "a bullet-riddled body ... to reveal the truth" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/30). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch wrote, “The famed Patriot Way is a pile of rubble now, the final blows applied this week by each mind-boggling allegation against Aaron Hernandez that came tumbling out” (N.Y. POST, 6/30). But the N.Y. TIMES' Greg Bishop wrote cutting ties with Hernandez was "not another example to debunk the so-called Patriot Way," but rather an "example of the Patriot Way at work." As the Patriots franchise became "an NFL power, its method of operation, the way it conducted business, became more than a slogan." The Patriot Way always was "less about moral fiber and upstanding citizenship and more about how players prepared for and played in actual football games." The Patriot Way "never left room for nostalgia, or misguided loyalty, or anything but decisions cold and calculated." To use Hernandez and the "to bolster an argument that the Patriots have lost their way is a dangerous stretch, a tenuous connecting of the dots." To say that because Hernandez "flunked at least one drug test while in college at Florida the Patriots could have in any way guessed or predicted that he would be accused of murder while on their roster is beyond any logic" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/29).

RETURN POLICIES: In Massachusetts, Mark Farinella noted the Patriots are "offering an exchange program in which fans who bought a replica Aaron Hernandez jersey from the Patriots ProShop can exchange it at no cost for any other player's replica jersey in the store at Patriot Place." The exchange offer involves Hernandez jerseys that were "purchased at the Patriots' souvenir store or online at PatriotsProShop.com." Anyone who wants to "exchange a shirt for one of comparable value can visit the Patriots ProShop" from 10:00am-9:00pm on Saturday or 10:00am-7:00pm on Sunday (Attleboro SUN CHRONICLE, 6/29). Boston-based Activate Sports & Entertainment President Jim Delaney said that the exchange is "another step in the right direction." He added, "It's a nice thing to do for their fans who have been equally outraged and shocked. The quicker you can rip the Band-Aid off the better, and the sooner you can move forward with rebuilding the damage done to your brand" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/29). Meanwhile, in Boston, Billy Baker writes under the header, "Aaron Hernandez Shirts Are Hot Items On EBay." An online market for Hernandez memorabilia "has emerged." Heavy bidding on eBay is "often driving prices for items well above what the sellers paid for them." Baker: "The question is: Who is buying the jerseys? And why?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/1).
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