What Happened To The Presumption Of Innocence?

By Jason Keidel
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Just a few years ago, Boston was the main nerve of pro sports. The Patriots were stacking Lombardi trophies. The Red Sox broke the Bambino’s hex – against the team that cast the curse on them, no less. And even the Bruins threw down on a title.

But the Sox haven’t sniffed a World Series since 2007. The Giants beat the unbeatable Patriots twice in the Super Bowl, extending their Super Bowl drought to nearly a decade. And the Bruins just lost the Stanley Cup in appalling fashion, blowing Game 6 in seconds.

Now Aaron Hernandez, the prototype of perilous riches. Young. Handsome. Wealthy. Fit. Famous. Violent. Throw any three into a jar and something is bound to explode.

A first-round talent, Hernandez plunged to the fourth round in the 2010 NFL draft because teams were worried that something could happen. Failed drug tests. Possible gang ties. Freshman fight at Florida. A lawsuit from a man claiming Hernandez literally shot his eye out.

Yet there’s still something chilling about the way his employer dumped him. The Patriots cut him as the cuffs clicked on the player’s wide wrists, as if there weren’t even a thought of backing their stellar tight end.

When did New England finally find religion?

Don’t feed us that “Patriot Way” junk. Is it the same family values/pristine path that led them to Randy Moss, Corey Dillon and Albert Haynesworth? It’s a little late in the game to grow a conscience.

The likely scenario is that a phalanx of law enforcement sources told them that the cops got Hernandez cold — which, of course, vaporizes the padlock on the the supposedly sealed evidence.

The local media sycophants, the glorified groupies with a press pass, said the Patriots “must have had some idea” about the charges. Right. It smells like they had the entire file faxed to them despite a judge’s order to impound all the evidence gathered by the conga line of cops marching in and out of Hernandez’s home.

And what happened to the presumption of innocence? Why so quick to bail? What if Hernandez is acquitted? The Ravens rode Ray Lewis all the way to the verdict and then the Super Bowl. Not even Michael Vick got vanquished this quickly, and he had a cemetery of dogs in his backyard, bones jutting like teeth from the grass.

But Hernandez is guilty now? Before his trial? And in all likelihood the Patriots whacked Hernandez because of the ghastly “distraction” that teams seem to loathe exponentially every year.

In theory, teams like New England are supposed to be monolithic, incapable of swerving while Uncle Bill, Bob, and Tom are at the wheel. That’s why they signed Tim Tebow, the quintessential sidebar. Something about Aaron Hernandez just ticked off the wrong people, ripping his right to a fair trial from the corporate halls in Boston and beyond.

Just don’t tell us they’re so suddenly pious and can’t deal with the stench of malfeasance. Big business is built on bad behavior, from pro sports to sports books to Facebook. New England is no different, despite the campy monikers about “model” franchises.

Sure, it looks bad. Really bad. The commonwealth read a list of circumstantial evidence longer than the Magna Carta. Hernandez locked in on the prosecution yesterday with a haunting stare.

That doesn’t mean he murdered the young man. Or maybe he did what the prosecution argued on Wednesday. Either way, the Patriots aren’t sticking around to find out. But even if they did the right thing, they didn’t do it for the right reasons.

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