For the team's on-field innovation, the New England Patriots have long been considered the National Football League's pacesetter. The same might now be
said of the franchise's public relations department.
Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is facing charges of murder and weapons violations. Hernandez pleaded not guilty on June 27. In response, the
Patriots have announced a jersey exchange program July 6 and 7 that pledges to exchange No. 81 or No. 85 Hernandez jerseys for another Patriots jersey of
press release, the organization announced the program to keep parents and their children happy with their Patriots merchandise.
"We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don't want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore,"
said spokesman Stacey James. "We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another player's jersey will be well received
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ABC he couldn't
remember a similar regalia-swapping program in the league's history. The proactive move has yielded praise from many, including Darren Rovell, an ESPN
sports business analyst.
The jersey exchange is "brilliant," Rovell said in a June 28 tweet. Others have
admired the franchise's willingness to take a financial hit in order to maintain a clean public image.
Albeit sparse, criticism of the Patriot's program claims that the jersey exchange presupposes Hernandez's guilt and attracts unnecessary attention. The
exchange also has made Hernandez jerseys something of a collector's item. Jerseys on eBay have received bids upward of $200.
In any case, the way the Patriots swiftly disassociated themselves from any ties to Hernandez is a shift from the traditional policies of most other NFL
franchises, which typically hold on to troubled players while hoping for their rehabilitation.
The Patriots actions have some, including Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports, wondering whether the New England franchise will set a precedent for the
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"Maybe the way the Patriots dealt with Hernandez will provide a template for other NFL teams and how they deal with players who get in trouble," Schwab
said in a June 29 article.
Further information about the jersey exchange can be found here