By Nick Canelas
When Aaron Hernandez was charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd on June 26th, it wasn't just the Patriots, their fans and Hernandez's family that suffered. It was parents and children throughout New England as well.
Hernandez – like many professionals – served as a role model for many local young athletes as he became one of Tom Brady's top targets in a matter of three seasons.
But following the recent events, the former Patriots tight end has become more of a fallen idol for kids. And parents in New Hampshire think it's discouraging for their kids to have see this unfold on the news everyday.
“My thought is they should be role models for the younger kids growing up, something like this is a big hit,” James McNulty of Nashua, N.H., said. “To let the kids see this and hear this all over the news all day, it's pretty frustrating in my mind. It kind of lets the kids down.”
As the Assistant Spirit Director for the Nashua Police Athletic League, McNulty said he always tries to bring out the positive with his young athletes. But when asked by many kids for his thoughts on Hernandez's situation, he was at a loss for words.
“When something comes up like this, what do you say? It's kind of tough,” McNulty said. “My personal opinion was he rolled with the wrong crowd. He got in with the wrong people, wrong place, however he chose to do it. That's what peer pressure is about. That's what choosing the wrong path is about.”
Despite the negativity surrounding Hernandez, McNulty and other parents, such as Tom Bellamo of Hudson, N.H., believe athletes can and should be role models for kids.
However, Bellamo believes that can't be done successfully unless more athletes are recognized for the good they do within the community, rather than just highlighting the negatives.
“I think there should be more recognition for the professional athletes that are out doing community service and volunteering and raising money for charity,” Bellamo said. “Not just the glamorous side, not just the spectacular on the field, and not just the negative, but all of the positives that a lot of professional athletes do.
“You do see some of it but I don't think you see enough of it. I think there are a lot of them that do a lot of charitable works that don't get enough publicity.”
For some athletes, it's a challenge to transition from a college star to a role model, and Hernandez is a prime example of that. That can be concerning for parents, however, especially when it leaves them doubting whether or not they want their kids idolizing certain players.
James Langlois of Nashua thinks that if athletes were more prepared to make this transition once they're drafted, then they could make for better role models.
“You need a more professional approach, more maturity,” Langlois said. “You're going from a college where it's a party scene and learning-process to making millions of dollars and being a big boy.”
McNulty does see the positive in this kind of situation, however. He thinks that Hernandez's mistakes can be a lesson for young athletes and kids of all ages.
“You choose to be who you are and who you want to be,” McNulty said. “You can choose path A or you can choose path B. It doesn’t matter who you are. You could be Joe Schmo from Nashua, you could be Aaron Hernandez, you could be President Obama. The path you choose in life is going to dictate the rest of you. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong one.”
By Nick Canelas