NFL Warns Against Casting Aaron Hernandez As Victim After CTE Diagnosis

The NFL has a lot of questions to answer about CTE, but it also has a lawsuit to win.

Researchers at Boston University revealed Thursday that Aaron Hernandez had stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy before his suicide. And Hernandez’s lawyer, who claims BU said it was the most severe case of CTE they’d seen in someone his age (he was 27 when he died), plans to sue the NFL and New England Patriots over the diagnosis.

But because the former Patriots tight end was convicted of killing semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd in 2013 and was acquitted of charges in a 2012 double homicide, NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart warned against treating Hernandez like a victim in a media briefing Friday.

“His personal story is complex, it doesn’t lend itself to simple answers,” Lockhart said, per ProFootballTalk. “He was convicted of a homicide and his well-documented behavioral issues began long before he played in the National Football League. … The real victims are the friends and family of those he killed, along with his young daughter.”

While all of that is true, it’s pretty disingenuous coming from the NFL. Hernandez was a victim of CTE regardless of his character, and BU researchers have concluded that football — and other hard contact sports — almost certainly is a factor in former players who had the disease. It can be true that you don’t have to feel bad for Hernandez, but the NFL also is trying to protect its bottom line by downplaying CTE.

And that was pretty clear when Lockhart responded to Hernandez’s lawsuit.

“We intend to contest the claim vigorously,” he said.

Thumbnail photo via Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe for USA TODAY Sports Images

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