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Were Aaron Hernandez touchdowns Bob Kraft’s only concern?

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New England Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft thinks we are all stupid.  Either that, or he believes we are so hopelessly fanatical about the NFL we will accept he had no knowledge of Aaron Hernandez’s desire to keep it real.  

According to Kraft, “no one in our organization was aware of any of these kind of connections.  If true, I’m just shocked.”  What connections does he mean? The kind that led to the death of Odin Lloyd or the kind that led to Hernandez allegedly shooting Alexander Bradley in the face back in February?  

By virtually all accounts, Kraft is a very nice man and I believe he is genuinely remorseful about the foolishness which led to a tragic loss of life.  But I am not buying the notion Hernandez fooled everyone in the Patriots’ organization.  Based on Hernandez’s stupidity, someone had to know he leaned toward a hard knock life.  Photo: cbssports.com

Consider, the Patriots had access to Hernandez’s former teachers, professors and teammates as well as information not always found on a police blotter. How can Kraft claim his entire organization was “duped?”  In my view, that is akin to a parent who steadfastly denies knowing their spouse molested their own child.      

There is a difference between not knowing and not wanting to know.  There is a difference between being surprised by someone’s behavior because it is completely out of character and being surprised by Hernandez’s arrest a few months after he allegedly put a bullet in someone’s eye.   

If Kraft really wanted to pay attention, there is no way Hernandez could have surprised him.  Ask yourself, knowing what you know about Hernandez’s past, are you shocked he is caught up in this mess?  Perhaps I am jaded, but based on the way he has carried himself, he seemed destined for bracelets and leg irons.    

Like all professional sports, the NFL is about winning by any means necessary.  That is why there has never been a meaningful conversation about performance-enhancing drugs.  It is why former St. Louis Rams’ defensive end Leonard Little kept his job after his drinking and driving killed Susan Gutweiler.  It is how the Los Angeles Lakers won two NBA titles after Kobe Bryant paid Katelyn Faber to go away.  And it is why Hernandez “slipped” to the Patriots in the 4th round of the 2010 NFL draft only to receive a contract extension two years later.  

But Kraft obviously thinks we aren’t savvy enough to comprehend reality.  He thinks we need to hear him say the Patriots are going to “reevaluate the way they do business.”  That somehow it matters that Hernandez “was always polite and respectful in the building.”  He thinks we are too naïve to understand teams will forever dance with the devil for the sake of victories.  


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I am certainly not saying Kraft should shoulder any of the blame for Hernandez’s actions and I am not saying he should have known Hernandez’s connections would eventually lead to a murder arrest.  I am simply saying Hernandez had major character deficits prior to his arrival in New England and those deficits were apparent to anyone in Kraft’s organization willing to see them.   

In addition, Kraft is wise enough to know Hernandez’s issues were not going to just disappear once he became rich and famous.  So why not just tell us he knew Hernandez had knucklehead tendencies but the Patriots are in the business of winning championships?  Instead, he offered an apology that seems hollow and self-serving.  

The world is watching, so the Patriots will focus on a player’s character more than ever before.  They will likely take a measured approach when analyzing any potential red flags.  But does anyone think they will acquire less-talented, good character guys over more-talented thugs from now on?

In fact, I don’t think the Patriots or any other pro sports team will win conducting business that way.  They owe it to themselves and their fans to gather the most talent possible, regardless of transgression.    

Unfortunately, it does not matter if that talent happens to have a reputation for raping or beating women, driving while under the influence or firing bullets into crowds.  

Because of the NFL’s culture, Bob Kraft had little choice but to sign Hernandez to a multi-million dollar contract; that is a forgivable offense.  Trying to convince us Hernandez somehow fooled or outsmarted him is not.  

He should know better. 

 

 Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com

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