With so much damning evidence against Aaron Hernandez coming to light recently, I feel I should be commenting on the Odin Lloyd murder case in some way. As the situation has unfolded and information has come to light, I’ve been working hard to write about other things. Partially, this is because I find the whole story so upsetting, and partially it’s because there are other interesting things happening in the NFL.
For example, if the Hernandez story weren’t so enormous and so transfixing, more of us would be paying attention to the fact that two of the Denver Broncos’ front-office executives have been arrested for DUI. One of them, director of player personnel Matt Russell, faces a number of charges after colliding with a police vehicle. Before Hernandez, it was the kind of embarrassing but minor offseason crime story that invited easy jokes. Now, every report of misconduct by athletes and management — even non-criminal stuff like poorly worded Tweets — could potentially lead to horror.
Will the media attention directed toward Hernandez change perceptions of the NFL and athletes’ behavior permanently? It’s almost certain that Hernandez will force some rethinking, in terms of team and league policies as well as in terms of fans’ reactions. One major case has already brought a wave of change. Before the O.J. Simpson trial captured the American consciousness, athlete misbehavior was much more likely to be dismissed as harmless or covered up by agents and teams. Now, even when public opinion ridicules or dismisses an individual act of DUI, it’s out there.
As much as media circuses like the one surrounding Hernandez can become annoying, they ensure that alleged crimes are taken seriously. Whatever you think about what Hernandez might have done and how the press is treating him, he’s impossible to ignore. And the public debate he generates is valuable.
You can contact Sarah Rasher on Twitter @pas_dechat