Geraldo Rivera and Rush Limbaugh are using the Aaron Hernandez case to tell their audiences that the NFL is contributing to a decaying American culture.
Rivera appeared on FOX News and said that the NFL and player agents should do more to keep players like Hernandez out of trouble.
“I don’t know why the league who recruits these kids from the inner city, how they don’t have minders, how the agents who are collecting 10 percent of $40 million, where are they in all of this?” Rivera said. “Why aren’t they mentoring these young men who are fatherless, many of them — Ray Lewis and all of the rest. Michael Vick. Uh, you can count them. There’s a ton of them. They sign them because they’re superb athletes and do nothing to preserve their character and put them on the right road toward manhood. It’s really pathetic.”
Rivera gets a few things wrong here: Hernandez isn’t from the inner city, he’s from a middle-class subdivision in Bristol, Connecticut. Hernandez’s father died when he was 16, but it’s wrong to call him “fatherless,” as Hernandez often spoke about the close relationship he had with his father. Also, Hernandez’s agent didn’t get “10 percent of $40 million,” as NFL agents can get a maximum of 3 percent of a player’s income, and $40 million represents the total value of the contract Hernandez signed last year — most of which he will never see.
And, of course, the NFL does do plenty to try to encourage players to conduct themselves like professionals not only on the field but off, starting with the rookie symposium and continuing with player development programs that are available to every player during and after their careers. The NFL’s track record isn’t perfect, but how could any employer be 100 percent sure that none of its employees get into trouble away from work?
Those problems aside, Limbaugh piggybacked on Rivera’s comments. Limbaugh has long criticized what he sees as ties between the NFL and gangs, saying in 2007, “The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips.” Limbaugh indicated that he thinks it’s unfair that he was criticized for those comments while Rivera will probably get a free pass, but Limbaugh added that he thinks the Hernandez case demonstrates the problem with a gang culture in the NFL.
“This guy is a star player in the National Football League, a star player for the New England Patriots. This has the potential to blow the lid open on the NFL and gangs and the whole concept,” Limbaugh said.
Rivera also decided that he wanted to bring Tim Tebow into the story and compare the two former teammates.
“Ironically a college classmate at the University of Florida of Tim Tebow — ironic, why? Because Tim Tebow, probably the most religious, straight-shooting ballplayer in the league,” Rivera said. “And Aaron Hernandez, a kid, an ex-hoodlum. You can take the kid out of the hood you can’t take the hood out of the kid. He was a Bristol Blood, he was a gang banger.”
Unfortunately for Rivera, The Onion beat him to trying to turn the Hernandez story into a Tebow story.