It is hard to ignore the news completely, but as a sports fan, I generally watch EPSN over the regular news channels. Several weeks ago, after a body and car rented to Aaron Hernandez were found, the star tight end for the New England Patriots was arrested. That same day, the team released him. On the surface, and based on countless other recent arrests, I thought that was a rather knee-jerk reaction. The evidence continues to mount and now I find myself applauding the Patriots for taking a major financial hit, to the tune of about $3M, not counting a $10M bonus that's been paid over several years. The salary cap hit also has implications as they move forward. The fact that Hernandez was arrested may allow them to void the contract in its entirety, but only time will tell and the legal system isn't timely, to say the least.
What was more interesting for me, as a gamer, was when I saw at the bottom of the screen on the ESPN ticker that EA would be removing Aaron Hernandez from Madden NFL 25 and NCAA Football 14. This took me by surprise, more so when I read this article from the Daily Mail with the number of NFL players that had been arrested since the SuperBowl. That number is twenty-seven. In that time, I don't believe any other league has that number of players in criminal trouble. Some of the charges are not as heinous as other. Let me be clear, murder isn't the same as a DUI, but none are good. I could take a side-step and talk about what terrible role models athletes are and how society has made us idolise both athletes and celebrities for living in excess, but that isn't what I set out to do here.
EA did the right thing, but did they do enough? I look at the list and I see another player who was charged with attempted murder. I grant you, he didn't succeed, but does that make it better? What about sexual assault? Should we have Ben Roethlisberger removed as well? Where is the line that EA is drawing? Where is the line that the NFL is drawing? Roger Goodell will never be a popular commissioner, and it isn't for our approval that he gets paid. His job is to ensure that the NFL can sell itself, the question is, what are they selling right now.
The Patriots organisation is one that doesn't tolerate players that create distractions. To call Odin Lloyd's death a distraction would be doing him a disservice, not to mention the other two people Hernandez is charged with killing in 2010. NFL players have been continuing this downward spiral and while this is hardly the venue for this, but sports and fame are two areas that we, as a society are fascinated by, simply by the fact that they have so much and in comparison, we have so little. I have embarked on the annual holy month of fasting, I'm Muslim, and I can't help, but reflect on the teachings from all our religions, highlighting being thankful for what you have and not living in excess.
Aaron Hernandez is a rare case, perhaps. If you look at the trend, it seems to me like every professional sport is filled with thugs. Those thugs are trained at an early age that their physical superiority gives them a right to carry handguns, use weapons and drugs at leisure because they are better than the rest of us. What EA has done is made a stand on a bit of a non-issue, following the Patriots, in distancing themselves from a young man who made some very bad choices. But what about all the other young men in football that are making choices that are little better? I may be taking this to an extreme, if EA removes every player with a criminal past, there would be no one to play in the game, but isn't that saying something profound right there? Football needs to clean up their act, and being in EA's game should be an honour, a privilege, not a right. If EA wanted to play hardball, they'd remove all the players that have issues, making the game impossible to sell or enjoy. In the end, EA is going to make an insane amount of money off of a few players that deserve to be in jail. If ever I needed a reason not to buy any EA sports game again, this is it.