By this point, everyone has heard about former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and his murder charges. While most people are trying to distance themselves as far away from Hernandez as possible, such as the Patriots, the NFL Hall of Fame and even EA Sports (creators of Madden NFL 25 and NCAA Football ’14), there are a few athletes standing up for the tight end. Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, former teammates of Hernandez at the University of Florida, decided this past weekend to wear hats with “Free Hernandez” written on the front. Clark Judge of CBSSports.com joined Scott Ferrall to discuss the poor decision made by these two NFL players.
“This is no judgment exercised by the Pounceys. They’re wearing hats saying ‘Free Hernandez’ which is free a guy who has been charged with first-degree murder and held without bail,” Judge said. “I just think the reaction across the league is appropriate which is essentially, ‘Listen, we’re a professional football team. When you go out in public, you’re representing us.’ I think the Steelers and the Dolphins are concerned that ‘Listen, that’s not the message we want out there. We’re not, basically, having our players go out there saying free someone that’s been charged with murder.’”
Once you become a player in the National Football League, you no longer only represent yourself. You also represent your team, and the league itself. That is why the picture of the two brothers wearing hats encouraging the release of someone accused of killing another man in cold blood has been so controversial. If the Pounceys want to support their former teammate, they are 100 percent allowed to. However, they can’t do it in the public way that they did over the weekend, for it portrays the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Miami Dolphins, the employers of the brothers, in a negative light.
“The fact that they were ex-teammates or roommates or whatever they were with him at Florida doesn’t matter,” Judge explained. “They can support him anyway they want privately, but privately. When you go out in public, you’re representing your football team, your organization, your business, whatever it happens to be. And I think by them wearing these hats, they brought a lot upon themselves that they really shouldn’t have, and they’ve got to use their heads next time. This is really, to me, a very, very stupid decision.”
The picture that’s making its way around the internet is of the twins, smiling and making funny faces, while wearing the hats that say “Free Hernandez” on the front. It was taken this past Saturday night at a nightclub in Miami. At a time when the Hall of Fame removed a picture of Hernandez from the museum and EA Sports removed him from their video games, the Pouncey brothers are seemingly making light of the whole situation. A 27-year-old man being murdered is by no means a joking matter. Judge completely agreed with the public’s reaction about the hats, and understands why so many people are upset by it.
“It’s not comical at all. I mean there’s somebody that lost his life in this. And I don’t know anything about the victim. I know a little about Aaron Hernandez. I’ve watched him play, he’s a good football player. But I also understand he brings a lot of off-the-field concerns to that job,” Judge said. “I don’t know what the idea was by wearing these hats. Honestly I think they probably did think they were supporting him but as I said, I do think you can do that privately. But when you go out in a public form in a photograph this way, it gets back to your employer. And if your employer is upset, I fully understand it because you’re getting out a message that they really don’t want to get out.”