On June 26, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested and charged with the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd and five firearm-related counts. 90 minutes after his arrest, Hernandez was released by the Patriots. In light of the arrest and charges, the team announced two days later on its website that they will offer a free jersey exchange for anyone who owns a Hernandez jersey on July 6 and 7 at its ProShop at Gillette Stadium. Note that this program is only for Hernandez jerseys purchased at the ProShop, in store or online, and not jerseys purchased from third parties or any other Hernandez products.
Patriots spokesperson Stacey James said, “We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don’t want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore. We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another player’s jersey will be well received by parents.”
Unprecedented? Yes (former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was initially charged with two counts of murder but eventually pled guilty to one count of obstruction of justice. The Ravens organization stood by Lewis throughout the whole trial, and no Lewis jerseys were exchanged at the ProShop).
The right move? Yes, Patriot Way or not.
Athletes, whether they like it or not, are viewed as role models by kids both on and off the field. If a kid sees his favorite player making sensational plays in a game, then that kid will likely work hard and try to emulate those very plays. If his favorite athlete is preaching education and community work during interviews and at speaking events, then that kid will likely be involved with school and his community. However, the opposite can hold true: a player that plays dirty and gets in trouble in public can negatively affect a kid to do the same.
The team is emphasizing two things with this exchange program: (1) “We don’t want anything to do with an alleged murderer” and (2) “We want our young fans to feel the same way.” If releasing Hernandez highlighted the “Patriot Way,” then offering this program for his jersey covered it with yellow paint. Clearly, the team no longer wants to be associated with Hernandez as his case and is swiftly moving on. The Patriots realize the damaging PR that the Hernandez arrest could create and is proactively protecting their brand.
As for the ridiculously crazy secondary market value, we can thank the concept of supply and demand. With the stoppage of Hernandez jerseys and the program’s removal of Hernandez jerseys in the market, the supply of jerseys decrease while price increases. At the same time, demand increases because the jerseys (and all things Hernandez) become rare and earn collectible status. We’ll see how this market pans out in the next few weeks, but I believe it will die down real soon (Did OJ memorabilia have such a market? Hernandez is not OJ.).
***Hey Boston Sports Fans! We survived the worst week ever.