In light of Aaron Hernandez's arrest, murder charge and subsequent release from the team, the New England Patriots are offering a two-day window to exchange the tight end's No. 81 jerseys free of charge this weekend.
UPDATE: Monday, July 8, at 4:35 p.m. ET by Tom Kinslow
The principle is also why the Patriots were willing to take a $250,000 hit over the weekend when nearly 2,000 fans exchanged their Hernandez jerseys for another player at the Patriots Pro Shop. Kraft said the team plans to destroy the jerseys by grinding them up and donating the material for recycling purposes.
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UPDATE: Sunday, July 7, at 10:40 a.m. ET by Ian Hanford
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Patriots' plans for the exchanged Hernandez jerseys:
What will Patriots do with all the exchanged Aaron Hernandez jerseys? Patriots will destroy them in an eco-friendly way.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 7, 2013
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UPDATE: Saturday, July 6 at 5:20 p.m. ET by Matt Fitzgerald
A lot of fans took advantage of the Patriots' generous offer for the Aaron Hernandez jersey exchange on Saturday. Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News reports that fans stood outside the Patriots ProShop as early as 7:30 a.m., even though the store doors didn't open until 9:30:
Patriots fans started lining up at 7:30 am to return Hernandez jerseys today. More than 100 in line before store doors opened at 9:30.— Kevin Armstrong (@KevinGArmstrong) July 6, 2013
ESPN's Adam Schefter provided an overview of the numbers as of 11 a.m., when more than 500 jerseys had already been turned in:
More than 500 jerseys with Aaron Hernandez's name were turned in by 11 a.m., about 90 minutes after Patriots' pro shop opened.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 6, 2013
Schefter also provided details on the numbers as of 5 p.m.:
Patriots announced that almost 1,200 Aaron Hernandez jerseys have been exchanged at their pro shop today as of about 5 pm.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 6, 2013
Several of those who gathered at the team store posted photos of the scene, which depicts a long line of people eager to distance themselves of the No. 81 in Foxborough:
Hernandez's association with one of the most renowned organizations in all of sports is being eradicated rather swiftly.
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The Patriots' official website sent out a press release detailing their offer to fans on Friday. According to the statement, New England fans who purchased a Hernandez jersey at the Patriots ProShop store or its online equivalent can come in and exchange their purchase for a jersey of "comparable value" at no additional cost.
The one-time offer will take place on Saturday, July 6 and Sunday, July 7. It will only be available for those who come to the Patriots ProShop located at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. The store's business hours run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on July 6 and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 7.
Patriots spokesperson Stacey James gave the team's reasoning for making the offer in a statement released via the team's website:
We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, 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 player’s jersey will be well received by parents.
Hernandez, a breakout star during his time in New England, was recently arrested and charged with murder in the death of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player. Prosecutors allege Hernandez planned the murder of Lloyd after the two men had a falling out, according to an ESPN report.
Lloyd's body was found on June 17 less than a mile away from Hernandez's North Attleboro, Mass., home. When Hernandez was arraigned in court, prosecutors detailed text-message exchanges and video surveillance that allegedly places Hernandez with the victim around the time of the murder. Video outside Hernandez's home shows him with a gun complaining about being unable to trust people, according to prosecutors.
Hernandez was also charged with five gun-related offenses stemming from the murder. Upon his arrest, the Patriots released Hernandez within hours. They issued the following statement on their official website following the announcement:
A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.
Hernandez, 23, was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft. He has made 175 receptions for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns over his three-year career. The former Florida standout was named to the Pro Bowl for the 2011 season after catching 79 balls for 910 yards and seven touchdowns.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to all six charges. He is currently being held without bond in Bristol County House of Correction and Jail in North Dartmouth, Mass., awaiting trial, per the ESPN report.