By Abu O’baydah b. Ali
Many people will look at the passing of AaronHernandez, former New England Patriots tight end, and say look “someone who had it all, money, fame, women, super human talent on the football field and he just threw it away.” But let’s follow the trend in pop culture and take a moment to look at our part in his passing (yes, we do play a part)…
Hernandez’s dad died from complications of surgery in 2006 when Aaron was just 16 years old. According to Hernandez’s mother this when he started acting out against authority. In 2007, at the age of 17, while on a recruiting trip to Florida (where he would eventually play college football and win a National Title) he consumed two alcoholic drinks at a restaurant, refused to pay, was escorted out of the restaurant by an employee and subsequently punched the employee in the head rupturing his eardrum. No charges were ever filed against Hernandez and the University of Florida was more than happy to have him still come and play for them. During college, Hernandez was believed to be involved in a shooting that left three people injured; he failed multiple drug tests and was a known and admitted marijuana user. The repercussions for his actions? He led the Gators to a national championship, was first team all SEC and first team all American and received the John Mackey award for the best tight end in college football. And even though his draft stock dropped when news of his marijuana use leaked, he was still selected by the best team in the NFL.
The message the world was sending Aaron Hernandez time and time again was that so long as you produce on the football field, so long as you keep winning, so long as you keep making our team money, you can do whatever you want off of it. Did anyone ever think that this was a troubled individual and that he needed help? Why would they? He was always a stud on the field which must have meant that everything off the field was ok. That’s why the NFL and NBA and every other sports league for that matter have no desire to speak about or touch upon anything not sports related. Just look at what the NFL has done with the issues of domestic violence, concussions and Colin Kaepernick. And as fans that’s what we’re sold and that’s what we eat up and love. We’re taught to care about our favorite teams and players and nothing more. We don’t care if our teams players are accused of rape, murder, lying, cheating or stealing. So long as they bring us the great satisfaction of seeing our team win, then that’s all we really care about.
Is this what Islam is about? Would our Messenger ﷺ look at us supporting these teams and these organizations as something trivial? Or would it be something that he truly detests? Could he (peace be upon him) watch a video of a woman being brutally beaten in an elevator and then go on to support the organization that tried to cover that up? Could heﷺ hear about an activity that was causing massive brain damage to those involved in it and then go on to support the organization that tried to cover that up? Could heﷺ hear about an individual who stood up and spoke out against oppression and then go on to support the organization that tried to silence him and shut him up? And while we agree that Aaron Hernandez committing murder is nothing short of despicable and abhorrent, could the Prophetﷺ hear about a troubled individual who time and time again acted out and was screaming for help, yet his screams were ignored by everyone because he was just too good at his craft, and being too good at your craft means that you should be grateful and thankful and suck it all up. Could the Prophetﷺ look at such an individual and feel sorry for him because he had all the fame and fortune and still decided to throw it away? Or would the Prophetﷺ feel sorry for those who couldn’t see or didn’t want to see past the fame and fortune to help someone who was obviously troubled?
As a sports fan you’re probably saying to yourself that this man had millions and it’s not my fault that he did what he did. And as a Muslim, I’m saying to you that the fact that we all support this kind of behavior when we should know better means we are just a little to blame. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.
Abu O’baydah b. Ali is a certified CrossFit trainer, and the president of the innovative charity org: Muslims Giving Back. He is also a doctor of pharmacy, and enjoys long walks on the beach and long car rides with older wiser men.