The New England Patriots have done all they can to separate themselves from Aaron Hernandez since he was arrested and charged with murder earlier this week. Less than two hours after he was taken into custody, the Patriots announced they released their former tight end. Later that night, all Hernandez merchandise was wiped from the team’s online Proshop.
The Patriots took it a step further on Friday when they announced that they were giving fans an opportunity to exchange their No. 81 Hernandez jerseys for any other jersey in their ProShop, free of charge. The swap is only for jerseys that were purchased at the Patriots official Proshop and will be held on July 6 and 7.
“We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don’t want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore,” Patriots spokesperson Stacey James said in a statement. “We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another player’s jersey will be well received by parents.”
Obviously, this is all about brand protection for the Patriots. The fact that they drafted a player with a checkered past who went on to be charged with first-degree murder is not great for the team’s image. Not only that, but Hernandez is being investigated for a double murder that took place last summer. If he was involved with that, New England would have had a criminal on their roster for all of last season.
Whether it’s a PR stunt or not, I’m sure parents appreciate it. If I had a 10-year-old who had a Hernandez jersey, I’d be exchanging it for a Tom Brady jersey — stat.