As the Aaron Hernandez murder investigation comes to a full tilt, I’ve heard lots of national pundits and writers throw around the word “enabler” when talking about the former Gator and now former New England Patriot tight end. Could the death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd have been prevented? Did years of coddling at the high school, college and pro level lead to Hernandez feeling a sense of entitlement?
Now, I’m all for the “innocent until proven guilty” process of the legal system. But, I also don’t think I’m the only one who, in the course of about 15 minutes Wednesday afternoon, went from thinking maybe Hernandez knew what had happened, to “Oh no, he pulled the trigger.” The details that were spread out by the prosecution during his arraignment…well, let’s just say if they have everything they say they have, this trial might not last very long.
But for national writers and radio hosts to start blaming former coach Urban Meyer as, and here’s that word again, an enabler, is just downright stupid. You can’t enable someone to a first degree murder charge in an execution style shooting. Speeding tickets? Sure, look the other way. Not going to class every once in a while? Okay, we’ll make you run some extra stairs. Special athletes do get special treatment, it happens everywhere. However, last time I checked, “Thou Shalt Not Kill” was part of a pretty big Top 10 list that no one should be expected to have to engrain into someone’s persona.
Is Patriots owner Robert Kraft being labeled an enabler for signing Hernandez to a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract before his current deal was up? No, because that would be stupid. Is Gators men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan being labeled an enabler for the post-graduate drug troubles of former Gator Major Parker or gambling troubles of Teddy Dupay? No, because that would be stupid. Did the culture of Florida football under Meyer lead to Hernandez being charged with first degree murder almost four years later? No, because that would be stupid.
My time at Florida was done way before Aaron Hernandez even stepped on campus. I don’t know him, but did get to see him play in person. The one I’ll remember is 2008 at FloridaState…the Tebow Braveheart weather game. Four catches, 61 yards and two touchdowns, one on a beautiful throwback pass in the pouring rain right in front of me. Come to think of it, I’ll be right back…gotta go search for who the weatherman in Tallahassee was. I might have just discovered another enabler.
Scott Shields is a graduate of the University of Florida, somehow getting out of there with two degrees. He’s a recovering former on-air sports anchor in three different markets across the country, and now works for a TV production company in South Florida. You can follow him on Twitter at @ufchomp.