Football is the most popular sport in America but let’s face it, it’s a violent sport and not surprisingly some of the players and their families have violent and crime related backgrounds. This year the big story is Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriot Tight End who is currently being held without bail awaiting trial for the shooting death of Odin Lloyd and is a suspect in the shooting of two other people. Much fuss was made a couple of weeks ago of how he was unable to watch the AFC Championship game from jail featuring his former team. This is not a story worthy of print Hernandez is in jail for a reason whatever problems he has while there do not deserve sympathy from the public. Demaryius Thomas current Wide Receiver for the Denver Broncos has a grandmother and mother who have been in jail since 2000 for conspiracy to possess with intent to sell cocaine. I was very disturbed to see several stories in the papers today about Thomas mother watching him and supporting him from jail with a tone that implies it is a tragedy that she is not able to watch him in person. It is time to stop treating these two stories like they are tragedies and treat them like what they are, people who committed serious crimes and their current difficulties in viewing football are the least of their problems.
Aaron Hernandez has been in trouble with the law throughout his collegiate and pro career but the charges have always been minor. Then in June of 2013 he was charged with the shooting of semi-pro football Odin Lloyd apparently because Lloyd knew of Hernandez’s involvement in a previous shooting. Shortly after Hernandez was put in jail the Patriots released him. The team further distanced themselves from Hernandez and assuaged parents who children owned Hernandez jerseys by offering a jersey exchange with their spokesman Stacey James stating, “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 Pro Shop for another player’s jersey will be well received by parents.” It is clear that the team wanted little to do with Hernandez so why was he mentioned regularly throughout the season during broadcasts of games on television? Further horrifying were the stories about his inability to watch the AFC championship game. Hernandez’s celebrity status means he cannot be housed with the general population and does not have TV privileges. This is not a tragedy; had Hernandez not shot Lloyd he would be playing and watching the game would not be a problem. The man is a murderer and thug and should be treated as such, not as some sort of folk hero.
The treatment in the press of Demaryuis Thomas’s mother, Katina Smith is even more disturbing. She was arrested when he was 11 and he was raised by an aunt and uncle who got him through school, got him into football and supported him throughout his career. Instead of focusing on this the press, including a story in USA Today focuses on how devoted Smith is to her son despite her current incarceration. She makes her own jersey by tapping his number to the back of her prison uniform and supports her son by watching all his games overcoming the adversity of prison. Prison is not an adversity, it is a situation that she has brought upon herself and the person who has had to overcome adversity here is Demaryius. In spite of not having a mother for a good deal of his childhood he has achieved great things and while he has said very nice things in press I would not blame him if he were angry with her. The press should stop treating this like it is a feel good story when it is truly the story of a women who did not think about the consequences of her criminal actions and thus lost the chance to be a regular part of her son’s life. If the press wants to do a feel good story why not do one about Thomas’s aunt and uncle helping him to overcome a tough situation and become a good man and successful athlete?
I am sure I’m coming off as a bit preachy here but that is not my intention. I am tired of watching the press trying to make light of some very serious crimes. Hernandez and Smith committed serious crimes and stories about them should reflect that and not the difficulties of life in prison. Athletes and the families of athletes who commit crimes are criminals that’s why they are in prison and the press needs to stop trying to make folk heroes out of them.