Former New England Patriot and University of Florida Gator tight end Aaron Hernandez was found dead, hanging by a bed sheet in his jail cell in Massachusetts on April 19.
He was a member of the University of Florida Bowl Championship Series National Championship team and was drafted in the fourth round by the Patriots in 2010, where he played until he was released after his arrest for the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013. He was convicted later that year for murder in the first degree and was sentenced to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The story of Aaron Hernandez is becoming increasingly complex by the day as far as the details are concerned. Reporters are speculating whether Herndandez had a lover in prison, held “Illuminati” beliefs and left suicide notes. This story at its core, however, is essentially a fall from grace. Hernandez was, in his prime, one of the best at what he did.
He was an agile, skilled tight end that could make plays up the field as well as block. Unfortunately, he never found his escape from drugs, guns and the gang lifestyle. Teammates often described him as somewhat disturbed and violent before his arrest in 2013.
Several sources have pointed to his contract with the Patriots as the reason for his suicide. The details are not yet available; several sources have said that due to his death, the team still owes him money from his previous contract, which will go to his daughter and the rest of his family.
Suicide, in any case, is incredibly difficult to handle and to understand, especially when in the public realm. Hernandez’s motives for the 2013 murder seem to be gang related, but others speculate alternative motives.
Hernandez’s family has decided to donate his brain to Boston University, where it will be determined whether Hernandez had been suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. CTE is the result of repeated hits to the head and has been found in the brains of dozens of National Football League players upon their deaths.
If the team of medical experts can determine that Hernandez did in fact suffer from CTE, it will be easier to understand the motives behind both his crimes and his suicide.
Recently, it was discovered that suicide notes were left behind from Hernandez before his death. Two of the notes were left for his family and one was left for his alleged lover at the correctional facility. There were no speculations about his sexuality until these notes were released.
A fall from grace of this stature is always difficult to watch. It brings up memories of the OJ Simpson trial of the past, seeing a superstar of this stature spiral in the way that he did.
Professional athletes are often only seen for their skills on the field. It is a difficult life to live, being defined by your statistics and how much money you make. People often overlook the fact that these athletes have personal lives and are often in the spotlight.
Arrests and suicides are, unfortunately, a brutal reality of our society. What we can do is use this as a learning opportunity. These athletes are in the public realm. The country sees these stories unfold in their entirety. That is yet another important aspect of professional sports.
We as a society, however, can use this tragedy and grow.