Aaron Hernandez documentary: What is the NFL hiding?

**Warning: spoilers ahead**

 

Earlier this month, Netflix released a new documentary series “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez”.  If you haven’t heard of Aaron Hernandez (which would be surprising), he was an amazing football player for the New England Patriots.  I know almost nothing about football, but the clips that I have seen of Hernandez playing, are shockingly incredible and it is no surprise that he was known as this extraordinary football player, especially for his age.  The documentary paints him out to be this incredible young player, who has it all: a beautiful fiance, a daughter, money and fame. Somehow, even though on paper he should be happy, something possesses him to commit murders.  The question that this documentary raises isn’t really about whether he did it, because if you watch the trial in the documentary, it is fairly obvious that he was guilty (though he pleaded not guilty). What the documentary seeks to unveil is why he committed these murders.  Why someone of such calibre would resort to killing people.

The documentary creates this report of Hernandez, a pro football player who is a closeted gay man.  The NFL, more so than other professional sports leagues, is not very welcoming to gays. Not necessarily meaning that the people in the league are homophobic, but the league itself, the idea of football is a very masculine sport and those who are gay are outsiders in the league.  Even in the documentary, you hear Hernandez saying homophobic slurs to his family members regarding guys looking at each other in the locker room. A childhood friend of Hernandez comes out to say that he and Hernandez explored their sexuality together and that he knew the real Aaron Hernandez.  This childhood friend is the only person who knows of this encounter, and Aaron Hernandez (spoiler: he hung himself in prison) isn’t there to defend himself or explain if this is true or not. So there has been some skepticism by the public whether this story is true or not because the documentary used this report of Hernandez being a closeted gay man in an extremely masculine sport for the reason that he committed these murders.  Not that because he was allegedly gay caused him to murder people, but the effects of being a closeted gay man in the NFL.

The reason that people who watched this documentary are skeptical of this story is that at the end of the documentary, they reveal that Hernandez had brain damage caused by the extreme number of concussions and head trauma that he had experienced as a football player.  The brain damage that he suffered from was called, “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” (CTE) which, due to where his brain experienced trauma, affected his decision-making and judgement and his impulses. This was extremely surprising because of how young he was and people usually develop CTE at an older age.  In the documentary, when the doctor revealed Hernandez’s brain damage, instantly it all made sense. Everyone in the film who knew Hernandez from a young age explained that Aaron had always been a really nice and genuine guy and that this was just not him. Now, if I found out that one of my childhood friends committed murder, I would probably say something very similar.  But it’s also the fact that people who saw Aaron after he got drafted to the Patriots, said that he was acting different and hanging around a different crowd, which could be a symptom of CTE.

Because Aaron Hernandez died, we will never truly know what his mindset was or what caused him to commit these murders.  However, after I watched the documentary, I was really confused about why they spent so much time talking about Hernandez being a closeted gay man and not about the brain damage, which to me is the most compelling argument.  The theory that I’m putting forward is not my own but what the public put forth after watching the documentary. It goes that football is a very dangerous sport and it is not a surprise that many players get concussions, however, what the NFL fails to put emphasis on is the players who have died from CTE. Studies have shown that a total of 110 NFL players have died from CTE or have been proven to have had CTE when they died.  What this suggests is that though it is a prominent issue in the NFL community, and highly likely the cause of Hernandez’s downfall, the NFL does not want this information to get out. The NFL is widely supported and is an American staple, tainting their reputation could have dramatic effects. Therefore, they fabricated or intensified the story of Aaron Hernandez being a closeted gay man rather than focusing on his brain damage caused by football.

Now this is just a theory and I don’t think we will ever know if it has any validity or not, but it doesn’t seem too hard to believe.