Many in the football world are waiting to see what will happen in the murder case of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez was arrested in 2013 and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd and a verdict could come at any time.
Both sides have given their closing arguments and the jury is deliberating right now. It is unknown how long it will take for the decision and then the sentencing period will begin. Whatever happens, one thing should be made clear, the New England Patriots handled the situation well and the rest of the league should try and learn from the example they set.
Not even two hours after Hernandez was arrested, he was cut by the Patriots. While New England was able to get some of the money back from the contract, there was still some guaranteed money the Patriots had to keep against the cap. Even so, they cut him.
The most famous murder trial involving an athlete is O.J. Simpson, but that came well after he had retired from playing. There wasn’t anything the Bills or 49ers could do about it at the time. One can only wonder how a team would handle this.
It is nice to think that whatever team had him would do what the Patriots did, but it is not a certainty. Public opinion can sometimes play a big role in how a team acts and the majority of people believed Simpson was guilty. This would be similar to the way fans and sponsors put pressure on the Ravens and Vikings last season for players on those teams that got in trouble with the law.
This is not the first time an NFL player has been charged with murder. The most recent murder trial that jumps to mind is the Ray Lewis trial in 2000. A couple weeks after Lewis was indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges, the charges dropped.
Baltimore did not waiver in their support of Lewis and that was, and still is, called into question. Many feel the Ravens should have cut ties from the linebacker.
Over the past two seasons, there have been a number of domestic abuse problems. From Ray Rice to Greg Hardy, there have been different levels of punishment and actions taken by the league and their teams.
While the league has come down hard on these players, ultimately, it should come down to the teams. If the league sets a base punishment for domestic abusers, they risk drawing comparisons between cases. Each one is a separate incident and should require a punishment that matches the severity of the crime.
No new punishment for domestic abuse was agreed upon at the owners meetings a couple weeks ago and that might be for the best. It is safe to say that penalties for murder are significantly greater than domestic violence, but by no means should that allow domestic abusers to get off easy.
The league needs to let the team control their players and the league should step in to help if the team wants to void contracts and recoup money. The city/state should have first say, then the team and then the league.
Hopefully the resolution of the Hernandez case will serve as a guideline of how to deal with players who have broken the law.