It has been nearly two weeks since former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested and arraigned on murder charges, and the time has come for owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick to speak publically on the topic.
Enough of the investigation has played out and enough information has come out for Kraft and Belichick to at least acknowledge the fact that a person that was drafted and brought up by their organization, and whom they pledged to pay millions of dollars to, has been accused of such atrocities. It might also be possible for Kraft and Belichick to express an opinion on Hernandez, and why they think his life went down the path that it did. Would releasing a statement or holding a brief press conference to say that be too much to ask of the owner and head coach of one of the most prestigious and respected organizations in American sports?
Outside of the silence of Kraft and Belichick, the Patriots as an organization have handled the situation with Hernandez as well as possible. When his arrest was imminent and even before finding out that the charges against would include first-degree murder, the Patriots released him, risking millions of dollars just to make sure that Hernandez was no longer a part of their organization when the handcuffs were put on and he stood in front of a judge. New England releasing Hernandez right before his arrest was not an indictment of his guilt but simply a way to distance themselves from a player who was in some way connected to a horrifying crime, which was a smart move for the organization to make.
The Patriots made another wise choice during the weekend when they allowed fans to exchange their Hernandez replica jerseys for a different jersey. The brilliance of this move is twofold. First, it is great public relations and a nice gesture to fans. Second, it does everything possible to ensure that Hernandez’s name on the back of a Patriot’s uniform is never seen in public again. This move is meant to further distance the Patriots from Hernandez, in an effort to prevent New England’s name and reputation from becoming any more tarnished than it already has been by Hernandez.
New England deserves a great deal of praise and respect for the way they have handled the Hernandez situation, except when it comes to the silence of Kraft and Belichick. It is not as if they’ll be able to hide from it forever; at some point they’ll both be face to face with the media, at which point they’ll be asked about it. It would be better if they were forthcoming and willing to say something in response to everything that has happened on their own, before being pressed by the media, as the more time that passes, the more uncomfortable that moment will become.
This is not a football issue; this is a human issue. This has nothing to do with a game plan, so there is no reason to be secretive about it or to brush it off with glibness or curt responses. No one is blaming the Patriots for wanting to distance themselves from Hernandez; in fact, that’s the right thing to do. But New England will never be able to completely escape the specter that Hernandez has cast over the organization, and so the individuals running the organization must confront the situation head on.
No one is expecting Kraft and Belichick to take personal blame for the things Hernandez is alleged to have done. But they have to acknowledge what has happened; they have to offer their condolences for the people Hernandez has hurt; and they have to offer some kind of opinion about Hernandez, what he did, and what could have gone differently. If nothing else, Kraft and Belichick owe us that; they have been silent long enough.