After New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was taken into custody on Wednesday and charged with murder in the death of 27-year-old semi-pro Boston Bandits player Odin Lloyd, the NFL stopped selling Hernandez jerseys. But that doesn't mean people stopped buying them.
The former Patriots star's No. 81 jersey has been trending on eBay, some of them going for double or triple their original value. "I thought about giving it to Goodwill, but I didn't think anybody would want it," said John Lamothe, a Patriots fan who felt uncomfortable with the merchandise of a murder suspect. "I thought I might get $15 for it."
Lamothe ended up selling the product for $289. The buyer admitted to him that 1) he knows he overpaid, and 2) he doesn't want his wife to know.
"I can't think of any reason why people would want it," muses Lynn L'Heureux, who's trying to sell a jersey she purchased for $100. "They think it will go up in value later on, and maybe it will, but I'm not interested."
After Hernandez was dropped from the team, the Patriots were quick to offer a free jersey exchange for disgruntled customers experiencing buyer's remorse. "We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys," said team spokesperson Stacey James, "but may not understand why parents don't want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore. We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another jersey will be well received by parents."
But as parents rush to take advantage of the swap, the darker corners of the Internet community were busy paying big money for the newly-taboo gear that most people no longer want in their homes. Some have likened it to the constant conveyor-belt of O.J. Simpson jerseys on the site, or the Nazi paraphernalia beloved by so many niche collectors. "I would actually pay money to know the story of who is buying it and why," said Jeff Brown, of Wakefield, Virginia.
They may be investors, hoping for their purchase to pay off if the Hernandez case joins the Simpson one to become sports legend. They may feel attracted to the lure of the story, perhaps, brought closer to a murder suspect by way of the jersey that bears his name and number. But if there's one thing the Internet has taught us, it's that the web is a comfortable haven for the stuff we're uncomfortable doing just about anywhere else — a place for fascination and fetish and just-about-anything to fly under the auspices of anonymity. Even if it's something as benign as a back-web jersey.
"I just don't want it in my possession," L'Heureux continues, happy to be selling hers for more than she paid for it. "I want to use the money to buy a jersey that reflects my pride in the Patriots."