In its efforts to clean up the thoroughly strange mess that is Aaron Hernandez and his murder charge, the New England Patriots are encouraging fans to trade in their now-inappropriate Hernandez jerseys for those of another Patriots star. Apparently, though, the Patriots don't consider Tim Tebow to be one of those stars.
Hernandez (and two alleged accomplices) remains behind bars after being charged with the murder of 27-year old Odin Lloyd. Media scrutiny has dug up the tight end's violent history, including links to a shooting in Florida in 2007 and inquiries into a double homicide in Boston last year. In full-on PR mode, the Patriots released the tight end just before he was officially charged and are attempting to void the guaranteed parts of his 5-year, $40-million deal.
The jersey exchange program is part of that PR effort, allowing Pats fans to freely trade in a Hernandez jersey for another player's. The newly-signed Tebow — the all-American, take-him-home-to-mom quarterback — seemed a great choice for exchange. However, the fine print of the jersey exchange program only allows fans to trade for one of 11 Patriots players, ranging from quarterback Tom Brady to backup running back Shane Vereen. And none of those 11 is the former Broncos and Jets quarterback known for his wholesome public image (you know, of the kind that the Patriots desperately need right now). As the foil to Hernandez's folly, Tebow even broke up a bar fight between Hernandez and a club bouncer back in 2007 when they were teammates at the University of Florida.
The Patriots eagerly put Tebow jerseys for sale on its website just a few days after signing him last month. But that pre-order sale likely has yet to arrive to the Patriots official shop given the small amount of time since Tebow was signed. The website currently only lists a Tebow #5 t--shirt for sale and no jerseys. Perhaps it's because of time alone that the Hernandez-Tebow exchange is not among those being allowed by the Patriots.
So with the jersey exchange program only valid at the Patriots Pro Shop this weekend, Patriots parents hoping to buy their kids a replica of a certain Christian missionary will be leaving empty handed. Yet those very same parents can purchase the jersey of
Takeo Spikes, the linebacker who recently admitted he has driven drunk in the past.* Brandon Spikes, the linebacker suspended in 2010 for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Or they can trade in for some Vince Wilfork gear, he being the defensive lineman who was investigated by the NCAA for allegedly taking $50,000 from jailed and disgraced booster Nevin Shapiro while at the University of Miami.
Oh, and those reports that Hernandez jerseys were selling for crazy prices on eBay? The supposed buyer of 15 of these jerseys does not intend to pay and fashions himself a vigilante, Yahoo! Sports reports, as he purchased them to make a social point not to take advantage of "that morons (sic) actions."
Evidence continues to mount pointing to Hernandez's guilt in the murder; NFL.com reports that tapes in police custody link Hernandez and two accomplices to the park where Lloyd's body was later found. With the likelihood of his release getting smaller by the day, this weekend's exchange program could be the last we see of Hernandez jerseys for quite some time.
*Correction: As the commenters rightly note, the "Spikes" name listed on the Patriots page refers to Brandon and not Takeo Spikes.