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Patriot To Prisoner: Aaron Hernandez

Part 1

Tidings and salutations, bibliophages! Welcome to another episode of True Crime: By The Book! Every week we get together to discuss books, movies, and documentaries that center on true crime. I’m your host, the Librarian, Tasha Pierce.  This week we will be discussing the docuseries that is airing on Netflix called Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.

I would be negligent if I did not address that the sports world lost another legend this past Sunday. Kobe Bryant was among the victims of a helicopter crash in Calabassas- nine people died in total in an accident that shocked many of us to our cores.  There are a lot of opinions on Kobe, both professionally and personally, but I choose today to focus on ways he improved the world around him. Bryant was the official ambassador for After-School All-Stars (ASAS), an American non-profit organization that provides comprehensive after-school programs to children in thirteen US cities.[452] Bryant also started the Kobe Bryant China Fund which partnered with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation, a charity backed by the Chinese government.[453] The Kobe Bryant China Fund raises money within China earmarked for education and health programs.[453] On November 4, 2010, Bryant appeared alongside Zach Braff at the Call of Duty: Black Ops launch event at the Santa Monica Airport, where they presented a $1 million check to the Call of Duty Endowment, an Activision-founded nonprofit organization that helps veterans transition to civilian careers after their military service has ended.[425]Bryant established Kobe Inc. to own and grow brands in the sports industry. The initial investment was a 10% stake in the Bodyarmor SuperDrink company for $6 million in March 2014. The headquarters are in Newport Beach, California.[454] With The Coca-Cola Company purchasing a minority stake in the company in August 2018, the valuation of Bryant’s stake rose to approximately $200 million.[455]

On August 22, 2016, Bryant and his business partner Jeff Stibel launched Bryant-Stibel, a venture capital firm focused on different businesses including media, data, gaming, and technology, with $100 million in funding.[456][457]

In 2018, Bryant became the first African American to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and the first former professional athlete to be nominated and to win an Academy Award in any category for his film Dear Basketball.[9]

At 9:06 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on January 26, 2020, a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter owned by Bryant departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, with nine people aboard: Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (Gigi), Gigi’s peers and their parents (including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli; his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton),[460] basketball coach Christina Mauser, and the pilot Ara Zobayan.[461][10][11][462] The helicopter was registered to the Fillmore-based Island Express Holding Corp., according to the California Secretary of State business database.[463] The group was travelling to Bryant’s Mamba Academy for a practice session when the helicopter crashed in Calabasas.[460]

Due to light rain and foggy weather that morning, the LAPD helicopters[462] and most other air traffic were grounded.[464] The flight tracker shows that the helicopter experienced issues while above the L.A. Zoo. The helicopter circled the area six times at an altitude of around 850 feet (260 m). At 9:30 a.m. the pilot contacted the Burbank Airport’s control tower,[464] notifying the tower of the situation. At that time, the helicopter experienced extreme fog and turned south towards the mountains. At 9:40 a.m. the helicopter climbed in altitude from 1,200 to 2,000 feet (370 to 610 m) flying at 161 knots (298 km/h; 185 mph).[464]

At 9:45 a.m. the helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and caught on fire.[465][464] At 9:47 a.m. authorities were called. The helicopter had passed over Boyle Heights, near Dodger Stadium, and circled over Glendale during the flight. Personnel from the Los Angeles County Fire Department attended the scene. The fire had been extinguished by 10:30 a.m.[466][467] None of the nine occupants survived. Initial reports indicated that the helicopter crashed in the hills above Calabasas in heavy fog.[468][469] Witnesses reported hearing a helicopter struggling before crashing.[461]

The surviving Bryant family members are Vanessa and three remaining daughters. 

It seems like the world kind of paused when the announcement was (prematurely) made of Kobe’s death.  Then there was a shameful shuffle by those of us who don’t trust one news site. I needed corroboration before I could even begin to believe that Kobe Bryant had passed away.  I say it’s shameful because I can remember a time in my life that if something was on the news, it had been vetted and could be trusted. This fucked up 24-hour news cycle and the ambulance chasers (like TMZ) have made retractions par for the course.  This story is no different- first 5 people were killed, then reports of all of his daughters being on the helicopter, then 7 people- it is absolutely SHAMEFUL- damn near CRIMINAL- to be reporting things before the family is notified. All of this scrambling and false reporting just to be able to say “We were first.” True Crime: By the Book would like to offer condolences to the families and friends of the victims and issue indictments to the media for being soulless.

Now, let’s dig into the topic of today’s episode, Aaron Hernandez.

The documentary outlines his early life, his college years, and finally his time in the NFL.  It also indicates that he may have been living a triple life. At the heart of it all, it raises the questions could he have been helped? Could some of his behavior be a byproduct of being raised in an abusive environment? Did football contribute to his violent behavior?  These questions are really left to the viewer and I absolutely have my own opinions on Aaron. Just know, that you may not agree with me and that’s okay. There needs to be a dialogue. Because discussing and debating this Aaron Hernandez may prevent another one from being created.

Okay, so we start at the beginning- Aaron and his older brother DJ were being raised in Bristol, Connecticut by their father Dennis and mother Terri.  Dennis is kind of a local legend in football so there’s no surprise that his boys were introduced to the sport early. Dennis is described as a “man’s man” very hyper-masculine. He was strict on his boys.  Known around as the King, DJ and Aaron were his heirs apparent. They may as well had been William and Harry as far as he was concerned. They were being primed to step in his oversized footprints. That meant playing football and being outstanding at it. Well, Aaron was outstanding in football- and basketball, and track.  An all-around athlete but a mediocre student. It was the latter that would cause his father to become physically abusive to Aaron. He wanted the best for his boys, and mediocrity wasn’t going to cut it. It’s also noted that Dennis and Terri had a tumultuous relationship that included alcoholism and domestic violence. Besides all that, Aaron still idolized his dad.  His brother, DJ, has stated that besides the physical abuse, Aaron may have also been sexually molested by an older kid. These are things that, left unaddressed, could turn a man into a monster.  

We meet the high school quarterback/friend of Aaron and he admits that they had sexually experimented with one another throughout high school.  His father was in the documentary as well and talked at length about how both he and Dennis were extremely homophobic. According to him, they had created an environment that made it impossible for the boys to question their sexuality or to identify as anything but heterosexual.  I’m sure we can imagine the conflict that this can create in a person who does has questions. This likely added to the anxieties of being a teenager. 

After DJ left for college, Aaron was excited to announce that he intended on going to UCONN with his brother- again, following in the footsteps of dear old dad.  And then tragedy struck the Hernandez family. Dennis had surgery on a hernia and passed away afterward. Totally unexpected, the family was understandably grief-stricken.  Family and friends knew that Aaron would never be the same. His dad, as rough as he was, was Aaron’s moral compass. Without him, Aaron seemed directionless. I’m sure it didn’t help that Terri rebounded rather quickly and it really fucked me up when I heard that she had begun seeing Aaron’s cousin’s husband!  Not only that, she moved him into the family home. Now imagine being an already troubled young man who just lost his father. Now you have to deal with a dude you saw all the time with your cousin banging your mom. That drove Aaron out of the home, to his cousin Tonya’s house.  

A lot has been said about Tonya being there for Aaron, how he felt like she was a mother figure who he could tell anything.  But, in my estimation, Tonya had the “anything goes” house. Everybody comes there to chill, smoke weed, niggas running in and out, eat, and do everything you don’t want going on at YOUR house.  So, she may have been loyal but she was also an enabler. Here this young man was free to openly engage in things that he should have at least had to sneak to do. One of those things was smoking weed.  I don’t have an issue with marijuana- I wish they would legalize it for the WORLD to enjoy- but not minors. I’m sorry, I just don’t think they are equipped to handle the side effects of marijuana consumption and the ability of the drug to kind of take over your life.  I know what he was trying to achieve- he wanted to dull the pain that life was handing him. Unfortunately, when he sobered up that pain was still there. So he spent the majority of his life- from 16 years old on- HIGH. He still was a first-class athlete, though, so people tended to overlook his negatives.  I can empathize with him in this way- I was 12 when my mother passed away. I was very smart and athletic and had never been in trouble at school. But when she passed away, I began to get in fights. I was angry all the time. I got suspended quite a bit. Do you know what straightened out my behavior? The principal, Mr. Reese, heard me using some language that would make Samuel L. Jackson blush.  He and my coach dragged me down to the office and gave me the come to Jesus speech. If I intended to continue to represent Lew Wallace High School and the mighty black and gold as an athlete, I could not have another behavior blemish on my record. PERIOD. Being on the honor roll wasn’t going to be enough- because, frankly, that came easy to me. I had to learn to direct my anger in healthy ways, admit that I was still hurting from the loss of my mom, not be impulsive.  And I wanted to continue to play sports with my band of sisters, so I straightened up my act.

But, Aaron was learning the opposite lesson.  He could do damn near anything and the fact that he was an outstanding athlete was a get out of jail free card.  There were no repercussions for bad behavior, only coverups. Once again, Aaron’s fucked up behavior was being enabled.

His prowess on the gridiron meant that a number of Division-I Universities were interested in him as a player.  Remember Aaron had already made a verbal commitment to UConn. He still made other college visits, however. When Aaron was just shy of 17 years old he re-committed. This time he chose to play at the University of Florida alongside Tim Tebow and under Urban Meyer.  By now, he was dating Shayanna Jenkins who he had known since elementary school. Dennis Hernandez had set a path for his sons to follow. Aaron was departing that path and heading to Florida.

There are so many reasons that this decision was problematic. The main one was the football program under Meyer.  I mean, he is an excellent general. If all you cared about was winning and bowl appearances, he’s your man. But as far as guidance to the players- uh-uh. Nope. Aaron failed multiple drug tests- covered up. He took bullshit courses. He was frequenting bars (at 17 years old) and in April 2007 he even punched a bar manager when he was asked to pay his tab. That disappeared. Of course, he stayed high because- childhood trauma.  He was playing alongside Tim Tebow who literally wore his religion on his face (but riddle me this- was still at the bar with underaged Aaron).  

I save most of my ire for Urban Meyer, though.  He established quite a pattern in Florida. Every season there were arrests, infractions of rules, and players who demonstrated horrible character that was left unpunished.  That “win at all costs” mentality was a terrible disservice to these young men and the community that they inhabited. There was none worse than Aaron Hernandez. While on scholarship at the University of Florida he frequented many night spots.  It was not unusual for him to get easily angered at perceived slights, and on more than one occasion he was described as “paranoid”. It was in September of 2007 that Aaron would be first accused of pulling a gun on people and actually shooting them.  The victims were in a vehicle at a light when “a large male who appeared to be Hawaiian or Hispanic with lots of tattoos” approached the car. These guys in the car had a verbal altercation with Aaron in the nightclub and chose him out of a photo lineup as the shooter.  They later said that he wasn’t the shooter- that was after the university and Meyer got involved. Remember- this is a college town. Winning over EVERYTHING! Aaron was sleep in an interrogation room while the school’s attorney’s worked their magic. Now, I don’t know about you, but I watched the Usual Suspects- many times.  In the film, the police detective is attempting to suss out a killer. What does he do? He locks them up overnight and observes.  The one who can sleep is the killer.  This is a 1995 movie that still holds up (except for the whole Kevin Spacey thing), but I digress.  Here this 18 year old kid is able to sleep when he’s in a police interrogation room- not for stealing candy, or getting into a fight- for assault with a deadly weapon at the least and attempted murder at most.  But, if he did this he got away with shooting two men. The school knew about this but continued to roll with Aaron because he was a beast at his position. An absolute BEAST. He remained a Gator for three seasons and finished his college career with 111 receptions for 1,382 yards and twelve touchdowns.  He won the John Mackey award as the nations best tight end.  He also was an All-American and All SEC. But, he was not welcome to play his senior season and was encouraged to enter the NFL draft.  

At 20 years old, Aaron declared that he was ready to move to the next level of play- he was going to be a professional football player but for whom?  His reputation on the field was diminished by his off the field antics. Teams would really be rolling the dice by choosing this loose cannon. He should have gone late in the first round or  early in the second. But teams continued to pass on him until, in the fourth round with the 113th pick he was chosen by the Patriots. This lucky fuck was going to play with arguably the best QB in the league- Tom Brady.  But the Pats wanted to talk to Urban Meyer before they signed him. And Urban- with ABSOLUTELY nothing to lose by telling the truth- still gave his endorsement. Don’t for one second think that I feel sorry for the Patriots organization, I kind of feel sorry for Aaron in this moment.  Because this professionally ideal situation was the worse thing that could have happened to him personally. I listen to a podcast- Crime In Sports with James Petrogallo and Jimmy Whisman. It’s a great show, lots of laughs- but damn near every episode they talk about athletes getting into trouble when they go to wherever they consider “home”.  Well, Aaron would be playing two hours away from “home” and for a person with many demons and as socially immature as him- well this is where it all REALLY goes to shit. I know this is going to be fucked up- but tune in to True Crime By The Book next week so we can talk about what the hell Aaron gets into during his time at Foxborough. If you enjoy what I’m doing here, please leave a rating and review for the show on your platform of choice.  Check the show notes for my linktree- those are all the many places I can be found. Shit really gets wild in the next episode, so tell a friend to tell a friend. Thanks for hanging with me and I’ll catch you in part two of Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. Later Bookworms!

Part 2

Tidings and salutations bibliophiles! Welcome to episode 15 of True Crime By The Book.  We get together here once a week to chat about books, movies, and documentaries that center on true crime.  I am the Librarian and your host, Tasha Pierce. This week we finish our discussion on Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.  If you like the episode please share both parts with a friend, acquaintance, or loved one so I can blow up. I’d also appreciate ratings and reviews on your platform of choice.  I’ve got a couple of shout outs for the end of the episode from Apple, Facebook, and Podchaser. But right now, I think we should pick up with the downfall of Aaron Hernandez.  

Throughout the series, we hear excerpts from conversations that disgraced NFL star Aaron Hernandez had with the people closest to him.  Of course, being a guest of any prison comes with a total lack of privacy. The calls in and out are recorded and we get to be a fly on the wall when Aaron spoke with his agent, his mom Teri, his cousin Tonya, and his fiancee Shayanna.  The calls that were featured in the series offers a little insight into the mindset of Hernandez. They also give us a glimpse of the relationships that he had with these people.  

I spoke about Teri in the first episode.  Her husband Dennis passed away unexpectedly after having hernia surgery.  Before her 15-year-old son could even begin learning to live without his dad, she moved her new beau into the family home.  This would have been difficult enough, but the new boyfriend was no stranger. He was the husband of Aaron’s cousin, Tonya. This turn of events alienated Aaron from his mom and brought him and Tonya even closer. We hear Aaron discussing her decisions and how they affected him.  It was both heartbreaking and sickening to hear- he was so frustrated that he couldn’t share secrets with his mom because she would tell others. It is obvious that he lacked a basic trust in her. He also prophesied that “she would die without even knowing her son”. He was only half right 

He spoke to Shayanna very often, as well.  By this time she had mothered a daughter with Aaron.  It seems like she was very in love with Aaron and his imprisonment was weighing quite heavily on her.  There were days that she had to talk when she probably would have rather been crying. She gave him solid advice and talked him out of responding to situations with anger.  He also got to talk to his daughter during these calls. He made it very clear to Shayanna that he was positive he would be beating his case. She seemed to be a little more realistic about his fate, but she didn’t rain on his parade.  

All this talk about Aaron behind bars, but we still haven’t discussed how he got there.  That’s where we are introduced to Odin Lloyd. Odin was a semi-pro football player. Semi-pro basically means that the amount players are compensated would not be enough to live on.  In fact, Odin’s teammate said they paid to play. These are guys that really are just playing for the love of the game. And Odin was a stellar semi-pro player. That’s one thing he had in common with Aaron, love of the game.  They would cross paths again for their OTHER loves- Aaron’s fiancee Shayanna and Odin’s girlfriend Shaneah are sisters. They were close which means Odin and Aaron became close by default. One more similarity between the guys was their love of Mary Jane.  Both were smokers, Odin was known as the “blunt master” for his talent at rolling marijuana cigars. The ladies would hang out while the guys would have sessions in Aaron’s mancave. We can only assume that Odin and Aaron began to share more than marijuana and they would occasionally go out together.  

This is how they came to be together in the early morning hours of June 17, 2013.  Aaron and two of his friends from the hood- the real hood- went to pick Odin up at his sister’s home.  When he got in the car, he texted his sister:

Did you see who I’m with? Followed by: NFL- just so you know.

Right now those texts seem ominous as fuck but at the moment his sister thought he might be bragging that he was hanging with an NFL star.  In June 2013, that’s who Aaron Hernandez was- a STAR. Fresh off a Super Bowl appearance at the young age of 22, Aaron had proven to be one of the premier tight ends in the NFL.  He was rewarded with a contract that would be worth $40mill over 5 years. This was beyond lucrative- it was insane! That contract alone represented 40 million reasons for Aaron to stay out of trouble, which makes it downright confounding that he didn’t.  Because, not only did Aaron continue to go to night clubs (which triggered his paranoia), smoke weed (which could create professional issues), and hang with the boys from the hood- he was about to commit murder.

No one can REALLY know what happened in those hours, but the next day Odin was missing.  He and Aaron had plans to join their girlfriends for Father’s Day Brunch but Odin was a no-show.  Later that evening, his remains were found by a jogger who then called police. Odin’s body was found in a gravel pit- the pit is located less than a mile from Aaron Hernandez’s home.  These guys had to be the biggest idiots ever. Aaron didn’t live in a modest 3 bedroom. He had a MANSION. A mile from a house that size may as well be in its backyard. Then the morons left evidence that included DNA  in the form of a half-smoked blunt at the scene. 

It wasn’t hard to come to the conclusion that Aaron and his friends Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace were involved in Odin’s murder.  On June 26, 2013, Aaron was arrested at his home. Less than two hours later, the Patriots cut him.  

This is where I tell you about how shitty the business end of the NFL can be.  

We heard Aaron in one phone call talk about banned substances in the NFL (not just marijuana, but certain pain killers that were also considered illegal drugs per the NFL standards).  He spoke about how hypocritical the league is because every Sunday the team doctors were injecting him full of those illegal drugs. Anything it takes to win, right? Also, Aaron asked to be traded because he was in fear for his and his family’s lives.  Belichick and Kraft said, “Nah- how about we set you up in an apartment where you can lay low?” Of course, there’s a story behind why Aaron was fearful and I’ll get to it once I’m through dragging the Patriots organization. I know he was under contract, but if a kid wants to be traded from a perennial playoff contender, wouldn’t you want to look into that?  WHY would you want to be traded? For Aaron, it was allegedly because he shot one of his best friends in the face and left him for dead. Imagine his shock when, on Valentine’s Day 2013, he received a call from Alexander Bradley- the man he had apparently tried to kill. Bradley was very much alive and pissed- I guess that’s understandable when someone literally wanted you dead.  He wasn’t cooperating with police, either. He never intended to out Aaron as the shooter. He wanted revenge, money, or both. So why the fuck did Aaron shoot him? His constant friend, paranoia, required it. See, there was another case we haven’t yet discussed. Oh yeah, the cases are just PILING up. In this case, on July 16, 2012, Aaron allegedly was at the usual place that filled him with anxiety- the nightclub- when someone had the nerve, gall, and intestinal fortitude to ACCIDENTALLY spill a drink on him.  Upon leaving the club, Aaron and Bradley saw the guys involved in the incident. Instead of asking them to pay his dry cleaning bill, it is alleged that Aaron rolled up on them and said, “What’s up now, niggas” and began shooting into their car.  Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu, 29, and Safiro Teixeira Furtado, 28, were hit in the hail of bullets.  They both died from their injuries.  The only person who could finger Aaron as the shooter was Bradley- so, killing him would be the way to eliminate the only witness. 

Well, he had no idea that there would be surveillance footage of a vehicle that looked remarkably like his leaving the scene of the crime- more on that a little later.  

So, the Patriots could have and should have looked further into Aaron’s request and the timing of it and easily deduced that Aaron was involved in some top tier bullshit.  They went the route of plausible deniability. I fucking hate the fact that these players are like chess pieces that the organization “owns”. When you own something valuable you don’t want anyone else to get it.  So they were overlooking the failed drug tests, his incompatibility with the locker room, and the GLARING character flaws because they owned him. As long as he’s useful to us, we are going to continue playing him.  The entire Patriots organization has the blood of Odin Lloyd on their hands because Stevie Wonder could see that this kid was troubled.

I call him a kid- he was 23 when the shit hit the fan.  Yes, he was technically an adult. He was absolutely RICH beyond my wildest dreams.  He was also socially immature (per the Patriots’ own scouting report). He needed guidance.  Actually, later on, we find out he needed even more than that.  

It’s like he found peace behind bars.  Listening to the phone calls with Shayanna, it was clear that she was the adult in the room.  He had affection for her and their daughter, but they weren’t enough for him to make better choices.  And his mom was literally fussing at him about not giving her a million dollars while he was locked up- she didn’t understand that a $40mill contract does not mean that he has $40mill today.  But, of all the damn things to be worried about, why are you worried about that? He wasn’t getting that money. The Patriots were doing everything in their power to not pay his signing bonus, so you know that they weren’t going to be paying any part of his contract.  Even though those bastards knew he was thugging and looked the other way- but I’m making this about New England when it’s really about how fucked up Aaron Hernandez is.  

He strolled into court looking devastatingly handsome and just a little bit scared.  Just a little. He blew kisses to his daughter. He seemed normal. That’s a scary thing, how normal he seemed.  Shayanna sat with Aaron’s family. Her sister sat with Odin’s family. Once so close, now they were estranged because Shayanna stood by her man.  Also never wavering in her support was Tonya- who by now was battling cancer. While I thought the activities she condoned at her home played some part in Aaron’s delinquency, she without a doubt loved him. Remember the other murders that Aaron was thought to have committed?  I said a vehicle that looked very much like his showed up in surveillance video. He was known to drive a silver SUV that -poof- vanished! Well, that vehicle was finally located- it was in the garage at Tonya’s. And try as they may, prosecutors could not get her to cooperate with their investigation.  She even stared down being charged with contempt without blinking. The judge didn’t blink either when he sentenced her to jail time despite the fact that this woman would miss her cancer treatments if she got locked up. She ended up making bail after 196 days. I don’t want to go into all her cases and such, but she was a ride or die.  She did the jail time, plead guilty rather than answer questions, missed precious days with her children for Aaron. She continued battling cancer until passing away in October of 2015.

Do I really need to give you a blow by blow of the court proceedings in the Lloyd case?  Good- I’ll just say Robert Kraft’s old evil, two-faced ass testified. Did I really just say that?  I don’t even know Mr. Kraft- but I do know his organization is always in the midst of a cheating scandal, I DO know that he’s shaking in his boots because THE Patriot, Tom Brady, is dipping his toe into free agency. I also know that he allegedly likes a happy ending. There was very powerful testimony from Odin Lloyd’s mom as she held back tears.  Shayanna got up there and lied- and she is also considered a ride or die chick. I think she was misguided. Tanya Singleton showed the world that it was family over everything, and she had her cousin’s back. In the meantime, Shayanna’s family- her sister- was sitting on the opposite side of the courtroom mourning the loss of her boyfriend at the hands of YOUR boyfriend.  

At the end of it all, Aaron is found guilty in the death of Odin Lloyd.  He was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was acquitted of the murders of Furtado and de Abreu.  So, now his focus was on assisting his attorney with appeals. He and Shayanna were being hopeful for their future.  That is, until a Kirk and Callahan radio show appearance by a reporter named Michele McPhee. There she and the hosts suggested that Aaron was a closeted homosexual.  Two days later, Aaron would be found hanging in his cell, dead from an apparent suicide. He had left three letters- one to Shayanna,, one to his daughter, and one that is rumored to have been to his prison lover.  There was a Bible opened to John 3:16, and that verse was also written on his forehead. There is much speculation that he could not live with the world knowing his deepest secret. But an evaluation of Aaron’s brain after his death may shed light on all of his impulsive and violent behaviors.

That exam proved that Aaron at 27 had one of the worst cases of CTE ever studied even at his young age.  There was a considerable amount of damage, thought to have come from sustaining head injuries while playing football.  Unfortunately, the degenerative brain disease can only be diagnosed at autopsy.  

According to a July 2017 article published in Sports Illustrated:

A study by Boston University researcher Dr. Ann McKee examined the brains of 202 deceased football players and found that 110 of the 111 brains of former NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The brains were donated by families of former NFL players who showed signs of the disease. The study was not conducted on a set of random former NFL players, and Dr. McKee notes “tremendous selection bias” in the samples. 

“It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football—there is a problem,” Dr. McKee said, according to the New York Times.

High school players in the study had mild cases while college and professionals had more severe cases. CTE was found in 177 of the 202 brains.

The disease can cause impaired judgment, aggression, memory loss, and depression. CTE can only be diagnosed postmortem.

The study examined players as young as 23 years old and as old as 89. The brains were also from all player positions including 44 linemen, 10 linebackers, 17 defensive backs, and seven quarterbacks. 

Former NFL Hall of Famer Ken Stabler was among the brains after he asked that he be examined when he was battling colon cancer. McKee determined that Stabler had a “moderately severe” case of CTE.

The family of the only NFL player without CTE did not authorize for Dr. McKee to publicly identify him.

The NFL issued the following statement to

“We appreciate the work done by Dr. McKee and her colleagues for the value it adds in the ongoing quest for a better understanding of CTE. Case studies such as those compiled in this updated paper are important to further advance the science and progress related to head trauma. The medical and scientific communities will benefit from this publication and the NFL will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes. As noted by the authors, there are still many unanswered questions relating to the cause, incidence, and prevalence of long-term effects of head trauma such as CTE.  The NFL is committed to supporting scientific research into CTE and advancing progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries.

In 2016, the NFL pledged $100 million in support of independent medical research and engineering advancements in neuroscience-related topics. This is in addition to the $100 million that the NFL and its partners are already spending on medical and neuroscience research.”

Last year, Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety, testified before the House of Representatives and was asked by Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky whether he thinks “there is a link between football and degenerative brain disorders like CTE.”

“The answer to that question is certainly yes,” Miller responded.

Chris Chavez



With that answer comes another question: What is the NFL prepared to do to ensure players get the help they need when and if they begin to show symptoms?

Because the Florida Gators turned their backs on Aaron and sent him to the league.  The league turned a blind eye, enabled, and discarded him like trash. And he had been playing the sport since early childhood, with an uber-masculine father who may have celebrated his son’s toughness when he sustained damaging hits.  

There was a former player who made the observation that head injuries don’t cause anyone to become a murderer.  I’m not qualified to make this assumption, but I will make it anyway- It is proven that head injuries can result in brain damage and that damage may increase an individual’s likelihood to be impulsive and destructive.  If there are murderous thoughts they are amplified by the damage. Does that mean that I think Aaron should have been let off the hook? Hell no! But I do believe that his repeated blows to the head should have been considered in sentencing.  I also believe that other athletes with a history of severe head trauma who went on to have a cognitive decline should have been presented as examples of what type of difficulties Aaron may have faced. I believe the Patriots should have been sued in civil court for the wrongful death of Odin Lloyd, based on the knowledge that Aaron had approached them about a trade due to death threats.  

Don’t mistake me for being anti-NFL either.  I absolutely LOVE the sport, but I do realize that in the US football worship has gone too far.  When the sport is known to be potentially dangerous to the athletes, it is imperative to take all the preventative actions necessary to mitigate the danger.  I’m not sure what that looks like but I think a good start is to rethink PeeWee and Pop Warner for the little kids. I also think that players should be able to understand and accept the risks when they play on any level- which means that tackle football would have to wait until the teenage years.  And for professionals, organizations need to be about the players’ well-being. They need to staff professionals who can identify changes to behavior in athletes and be prepared to make a player medically unfit to play if they display classic symptoms of severe brain damage. While they’re at it, they can protect and respect a player’s right to peaceful protest, but I digress.  

Aaron led a triple life- he was at the same time an insanely talented athlete, a sexually confused young man, and a cold-blooded murderer.

He was let down in so many ways by so many people.  He also destroyed many lives with his actions. His sexuality should not have been that big of a story (he did protest too much about homosexuality and transgender women, doesn’t mean he should have been “outed”).  I just wish he would have gotten help sooner because this sensational and salacious story may have never happened if he did.

There, of course, was so much more to this documentary than I could cover in two half-hour episodes so I highly recommend that you watch the Netflix series Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.  Also, peep the bit players and let me know if you think that a couple of them were propping themselves up with their appearance in the series. I don’t know- I just got a bad vibe.  

Anywho- that’s my take on what happened.  As promised, I have a couple of shoutouts for leaving me a 5-star review.  You can get a shout just by sending a favorable review on your platform of choice.  I will leave my linktree in the description so you can see all the wonderful places I can be found including

This week I’m saying thanks to Melanie, Joel, and XOTori21 for putting a BIG smile on my face! Thank you all for being a part of my audience.  

Until next week, tell a friend to tell a friend- our numbers are growing! Don’t let them be left out of this expanding community.  That’s it. Thank you for joining me this week on True Crime: By the Book. Rate, review, and share! Later bookworms!

Sources and Shit

Netflix Documentary

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez