A cliché term used for athletes with extreme skill but cannot figure it out upstairs. They cannot figure out how to keep themselves out of trouble off the field or court so that they can stay on. We have seen countless examples of athletes that have made it to the pinnacle of their sport, only to come tumbling down due to poor decisions. The most recent, and extreme example of this, has to do with Aaron Hernandez.
Aaron Hernandez was an All-American at the University of Florida and was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He was drafted the same year as Rob Gronkowski and started a new era of double tight end sets that has been emulated by many teams since. After his third season in the league, Hernandez signed a huge extension including a $12.5 Million signing bonus included in a $40 million extension. An extension that would have run through next year’s NFL season.
Aaron Hernandez had his demons, and they were well known by both the Patriots as well as his college coaching staff. No one seemed to care. The talent was immense so the off the field issues got swept under the rug. This was until Aaron Hernandez was suspected of murdering Odin Lloyd. This is when it all came crashing down.
Aaron Hernandez was convicted of the murder of Odin Lloyd and was also put on trial for a double murder the year before. Aaron Hernandez was acquitted of that double murder and five days later, committed suicide. Hernandez was also in the process of appealing his murder conviction of Odin Lloyd. So why would he kill himself if there was even a slight chance he could be acquitted of Odin Lloyd’s murder as well? Money.
It makes me sick writing this but I believe the reason Aaron Hernandez ended up committing suicide was because of a Massachusetts law relating to convictions in which an appeal could not take place. In Massachusetts, if you are not able to follow through with an appeal of a conviction due to you not being alive anymore, then that conviction can be tossed out. That is exactly what happened today. So how does this relate to money?
In Aaron Hernandez’ contract with the Patriots, there was a clause that essentially meant the Patriots did not have to pay him his remaining signing bonus if he was convicted of a certain kind of crime. This included murder. So if his murder conviction was tossed out, he would be entitled to the remaining money the Patriots owed him. So, in my opinion, Aaron Hernandez made a decision to commit suicide so that his family could potentially receive the $6 million the Patriots still owed him. This is some heavy stuff.
I do not ever plan on committing a crime that would land me in jail for the rest of my life, but I cannot even begin to go through the thought process that Aaron Hernandez went through. To kill yourself so that your family could be set financially for the rest of their lives is not something I can even begin to conceive. And yet, this man did this. All of this has led to the loss of a life, and the loss of a promising professional career. Obviously his professional career pales in comparison to the loss of his life and the life of Odin Lloyd, but it is part of the story. While this is a specific story and you would hope is a one-time occurrence, I fear this is something that could become common place in professional sports.
Professional sports is a business, we all know that. The point of their very existence is to entertain people and to make money. But this concept cannot take precedent over the well-being of the people who are employed. It is becoming far too common to hear of a player being accused of domestic abuse or other violent crimes to be something that we just report and move on from. This is not okay.
Franchises spend millions of dollars a year to help keep their employees, the players, physically healthy. What is forgotten is the mental health of these young men. It seems as if as long as a player is performing at a high level, nothing else seems to matter. This was the case for Aaron Hernandez, and it cost him his life as well as the life of Odin Lloyd. We, as the consumers, must demand more. If professional franchises continue to ignore the mental health of its players I fear the term wasted talent will only become more common. And the outcomes of this wasted talent will only get more extreme.