Murderer in NFL’s midst

Dylan Snyder

“You’re wrong.” Those are the very simple words that former NFL star turned inmate Aaron Hernandez mouthed to the jury as they read the verdict for the first of many criminal trials. A few short weeks ago on April 15, Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder for extreme cruelty in the death of Odin Lloyd, his sister-in-law’s boyfriend. Hernandez, barring successful appeal, will sit in prison for the rest of his natural life, but the fact that he got to where he was in his life is extraordinary knowing what we do now. Hernandez somehow was able to have a secret life as a serial shooter without anyone being wiser until he got sloppy.

Hernandez always had trouble with the law. He failed multiple drug tests for marijuana at the University of Florida. He fell in the NFL draft down to the fourth round despite being an elite talent, but then he still couldn’t get it together. During the trial, a friend of Hernandez testified that Hernandez smoked up to an ounce of weed a day while in the NFL. How this got past the NFL’s drug testing system that has effectively ended the careers of several players like Justin Blackmon, Josh Gordon and put a huge roadblock in front of Ricky Williams remains a mystery. The fact that Hernandez was never caught is obviously a huge red flag in terms of the effectiveness of the system in place. But smoking weed isn’t the worst thing a person can do, despite what the NFL punishments are. What came out regarding the violence in Hernandez’s past should worry everyone, not just those in charge of NFL discipline.

We like to think that we “know” our athletes. We watched with awe as Johnny Football partied his way to the Heisman and then to rehab. We see athletes try to inspire and put their feet in their mouths on Twitter all the time. But we never think that there is a legitimate serial murderer in the public spotlight. Hernandez started all this back in 2007 (as far as we know) when he punched a bouncer in the head so hard he ruptured an eardrum. Only five months later Hernandez was questioned about a shooting in which he was involved, but not a suspect. Hernandez apparently was then able to keep his nose clean long enough to win a BCS Championship, get drafted and win a Super Bowl. Five months after the Super Bowl win, however, it appears that Hernandez shot and killed two men in a drive-by shooting. This will be Hernandez’s next legal trial, which he should have plenty of time to mull over in his cell. Then in February 2013, Hernandez allegedly shot an associate in the face leaving him blind in one eye. After all of this, Hernandez killed Odin Lloyd in June of 2013, bringing all of these infractions to light and getting thrown in jail for the rest of his life.

How in the world does this happen? Obviously if the cops didn’t know about these instances, it is hard to blame the NFL for not stepping in, but a murderer was in the NFL for four entire years before he got sloppy enough to get caught. The body count as it stands right now is three with the possibility of five. In a world where what Tom Brady eats for breakfast makes news, we intrude on rehab stays, suspend people for having a single beer and have video tape of some allegedly deflating footballs, the NFL failed to kick out a murderer until the courts did it for them. If the NFL is going to have people take its personal conduct policy seriously, maybe it needs to keep a closer eye on its multimillion dollar men.