By now all those in the sports world are aware of the alter ego and actions of former Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez. Arrested for the alleged murder of 27-year old semi professional football player Odin Lloyd, and also linked to a double homicide in Boston in 2012, Hernandez remains in custody without bail in this ongoing investigation. The Patriots released Hernandez all but two hours after being arrested the morning of June 26, and resulted in the Patriots withholding any future payments of the guaranteed money outlined in Hernandez’s recently signed contract. The issue here, as the NFLPA pursues recovery of these damages from the Patriots supposed breach of his contract, is whether the Patriots are legally able to withhold these payments to Hernandez due to the severity of the incident, or if Hernandez, regardless of his actions, is entitled to the guaranteed and bonus money.
Hernandez signed a contract extension in the summer of 2012 that featured a $12.5 million signing bonus, $16 million guaranteed money, and a total maximum value of $40 million. The NFLPA has now filed several grievances on behalf of Hernandez in attempt to recover money they believe the Patriots owe to Hernandez for guaranteed payments, as well as signing and workout bonus money. However, according to the NFL collective bargaining agreement (CBA), there is a policy allowing teams to retrieve bonus money from players if that particular player is incarcerated. Nevertheless, the NFLPA filed these grievances on the premise of protecting the rights of all NFL players derived from the CBA. Therefore, regardless of the allegations, Aaron Hernandez was still a player with a contract in the NFL, though terminated. Meanwhile, Patriots owner Robert Kraft refuses to fulfill the contractual obligations based off the fact that Hernandez failed to hold up his end of the contract, so he would not honour his side of the agreement. Additionally, due to his incarceration Hernandez may even be forced to forfeit payments, as Article 4, Section 9 of the 2011 CBA states, “a player who is ‘unavailable to the team due to conduct by him that results in his incarceration’ has committed a ‘forfeitable breach’ and may be required to forfeit the signing bonus (or roster bonus, option bonus, reporting bonus) for each year that a breach occurs.”
While this information is significant in terms of both the rights of Aaron Hernandez and the New England Patriots, the fact is that this case is ongoing and Aaron Hernandez is, under U.S. legislation, innocent until proven guilty. Based off the evidence that has been presented, the New England Patriots should be able to withhold future payments to Hernandez, and Hernandez should be entitled to keep his payments from the Patriots, only until a verdict has been made in this case rendering Hernandez innocent or guilty. It would be at this point that Hernandez, if innocent, could recover his payments from the Patriots, but if guilty, must forfeit payments made to him prior to this incident. With the information presented, I now ask what is your position in the ongoing contract debate between Aaron Hernandez and the New England Patriots?