BENAC: Hernandez should be judged on crime, not on race or upbringing

The recent arrest of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in connection with the slaying of 27-year old Odin Lloyd has sent something of a shock through the sports world, the football world and the world of Patriot fanship.

The Patriots have built up something of a legacy over the last several years, with Tom Brady leading the Pats to three Super Bowls in 2001, 2003 and 2004. Players on the team, as well as fans, preach about the “Patriot Way,” which is a sensibility that all Patriot players are said to possess.

Hernandez has been ejected from that club, in spite of his 175 career receptions, 1,956 receiving yards and his 18 touchdown receptions in a professional career from 2010-2012. He was one of the most promising young tight ends in the business and now he is simply a prison number and an unemployed ex-Patriot.

A swirling array of opinions are erupting following both his release from the Patriots and his incarceration. Many are saying the Patriots have abandoned their prodigal son when he needed them most, before he was proved guilty of any crime.

Others are saying the Patriots should have “vetted” Hernandez before acquiring him, taking into account his “rough” up bringing and previous incidents of violence that occurred in college. They should have anticipated some violence issues from a man they now label as “dangerous” and blame the Patriots for his crime.

Still another group, those of the Twitter Teenie Bopper Tweezer Heads (my own term) are calling for his release on the grounds of “sexiness.”

The first two groups raise important issues while the third are beneath even the most base consideration.

The people who make the first argument point out the way Baltimore handled the Ray Lewis murder incident in 2000. Lewis was allegedly involved in a stabbing murder in a case that saw him cop a plea to testify against his alleged accomplices.

During this time, Baltimore did not release Lewis, but stuck by him as a player and as a person. The next year, Baltimore won Super Bowl XXXV and Lewis was named the MVP.

Patriots fans who feel that Hernandez has been abandoned by his team much too quickly could point to that case as an example of what New England should have done with Hernandez.

However, I feel this approach leaves out a few vital points of the Lewis case. The blood of the murder victims was allegedly found in Lewis’ car. The white suit he was allegedly wearing that night was never seen again.

Let’s not forget that Lewis was never charged with murder as he copped a plea against others to avoid going to trial. I’m not saying that this makes him a guilty man, but copping a plea and being found innocent are two very different things.

But if you ignore the moral and ethical implications of the situation, yes, the Ravens benefited from sticking with Lewis through his murder trial ordeal and were rewarded with a Super Bowl.

However, the naysayers have a point in observing that Hernandez’s past violent behavior should have served as a warning that he would be a potential problem element in the finely tuned Patriots machine.

After all, Hernandez had already been involved in a bar fight in his college days, a fight that had been observed by (groan) Tim Tebow, a former college teammate of Hernandez.

And then there are all those tattoos up and down his arms that some pundits have pointed out could have (gasp) gangland associations! Did the Patriots really hire a member of a gang?

No, of course not. Hernandez is not in a gang. Even the police officer in charge of the investigation says he could care less about the tattoos and any alleged connection they may have with criminal elements.

Besides, I find all this mealy mouthed meandering and finger pointing and speculations about Hernandez’s “rough” past to be, at best, nothing more than the smug speculations of those who point their fingers in hindsight and at worst, classist and racist rage.

I always balk at the argument that somebody who comes from the inner city, has tattoos and listens to rap music is automatically a “dangerous” person. Yes, there is a culture of violence prevalent in both inner city life and in many aspects of rap culture. And gang members often get tattoos that signify their gang affiliation.

However, any judge would, and should, throw out that kind of information as purely circumstantial. After all, Hernandez grew up in Bristol, Conn., a rather small city that doesn’t exactly feature a lot of violence. It was even on Money Magazine’s “100 Best Places to Live” list.

No, a lot of the speculation on Hernandez’s apparently “rough upbringing” comes primarily from the assumption that comes from looking at his tattooed arms and hearing his last name. Hernandez is a name that could arise from a variety of latino backgrounds and Aaron Hernandez himself comes from a Puerto Rican lineage.

As a result, many people make a lot of assumptions about him based on his perceived class and race which don’t sit comfortably with the 21st century.

I won’t argue that Hernandez has had a violent past or that he may have done some questionable things. That’s inarguable. I won’t even argue that Hernandez seems to have had something to do with Lloyd’s death. He seems locked dead to rights. I also won’t argue that there aren’t a lot of facts and evidence locked away until the trial can attempt to unearth the truth.

But what can’t be argued is that three people are dead, including two more homicide victims that may potentially be linked to Hernandez. One man may have had something to do with all three. This is something that all the Hernandez defenders have to understand before chucking blame at the Patriots.

However, those attacking Hernandez before his guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, need to understand the facts and evidence of the case more fully before throwing him in front of the bus for an accident of birth.