When something as huge as the Aaron Hernandez case storms through the sporting world, public relations can be a nightmare. Luckily for the NFL, Hernandez's former team, teammates, and peers collaboratively detached themselves from the troubled tight end, who continues to be held without bail after being charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd back on June 26. What the league found Monday proved to be a different story.
An Instagram photo of Hernandez's former college teammates wearing "free Hernandez" hats has caught attention, sparking new concerns over the virality of Hernandez's case. The teammates, twin brothers Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, are NFL centers who have known Hernandez since he joined the Florida Gators in 2007. The two were reportedly celebrating their upcoming shared birthday.
Naturally, Mike and Maurkice's respective teams aren't too happy about all this. Pro Bowler Maurkice has already issued an apology after his Pittsburgh Steelers spoke to him about the issue, while Mike, the starting center for the Miami Dolphins, is expected to follow in his brother's footsteps shortly.
Forced apologies (and Maurkice's apology was by all means forced; the dude didn't slip and fall into a hat or forget the connotation that Hernandez's name carries) don't do the NFL any favors. Neither does young players showing support for an alleged murderer. True, the league promotes loyalty to teammates, and Hernandez has yet to be proved guilty in a court of law, but the timing and public nature of the hats come off as extremely inappropriate.
Both Pouncey twins were reportedly with Hernandez in a club the night of a 2007 Gainsville shooting that's still being investigated. The situation could only get stickier as more rumors and connections prout from the photo, and it's clear that not every NFL player has grasped the seriousness of Hernandez's alleged activity.