This is no plea for Aaron Hernandez, the huge former tight end of the New England Patriots football team who has been charged with murdering Odin Lloyd, who dated Hernandez’s girlfriend's sister. The Patriots released Hernandez last week, 90 minutes after his arrest on then-unspecified charges. On Friday the team announced that fans could exchange his team jersey for another “of comparable value.” And that, as far as the Patriots are concerned, is the end of Aaron Hernandez. He had become “a distraction,” and the Patriots have become the league’s most successful franchise because they don’t brook distractions. The team was within its rights to dump Hernandez and had no obligation to offer him public support or mouth the usual pieties about “the presumption of innocence.” He seems an unsavory guy, but that isn’t the issue for the Patriots. To them, he is a piece of meat. Professional sports in America, and particularly football, should not be confused with the games we used to play. Nor should those who play them be confused with role models or heroes, however valuable their jerseys or their contracts. They are fodder for their egotistical owners, corporate profiteers and rabid fans. They are, like their forebears in ancient Rome, entertainment for the American empire’s masses.
In other NFL news, Jim Hudson, a hard-hitting defensive back for the 1969 New York Jets Super Bowl winner, died last week of “Parkinson’s dementia” likely caused by head traumas. He was 70, and his brain has been sent to researchers at Boston University.