Fans line up for Hernandez jersey exchange
July, 6, 2013
By Mike Rodak | ESPNBoston.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Hundreds of fans flocked to the New England Patriots pro shop at Gillette Stadium on Saturday morning, taking part in a two-day event to exchange jerseys of former tight end Aaron Hernandez for those of current players.
According to a team spokesperson, over 500 jerseys with Hernandez's name were turned in by 11 a.m., about 90 minutes after the pro shop opened its doors.
Hernandez was charged with the murder of 27-year old semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd last month, and was released by the Patriots the same day.
Mike Rodak/ESPNBoston.comPatriots fan Steven McGrath, in his new Rob Gronkowski jersey, said he traded in his Aaron Hernandez jersey at Saturday's event because he felt Hernandez disrespected Myra Kraft.
Fans lined up hours before the event began, with Patriots staff checking the authenticity of the Hernandez jerseys before they were placed in a large bin. The team will make an effort to recycle the jersey material, but will not donate the jerseys to a foreign country.
In the first hour, the most popular jersey that fans picked off the shelf belonged to defensive tackle Vince Wilfork -- at a rate of twice as much as any other jersey -- followed by quarterback Tom Brady and defensive end Chandler Jones.
Season-ticket holder Steven McGrath of Lincoln, R.I., turned in his Hernandez jersey for one of another tight end, Rob Gronkowski. The 25-year old was wearing a Patriots hat with the initials "MHK" on the back, representing Myra Kraft, the wife of owner Robert Kraft, who died in 2011.
"You can't wear a Hernandez (jersey) around here. He disrespected the Patriots way, Robert Kraft, Myra Kraft. You can't disrespect her," he said. "I made a mistake getting a Hernandez (jersey) in the first place. I should have bought Gronkowski, and I wouldn't be here now."
The Patriots encouraged parents to exchange their children's jerseys, and about 20 percent of the jerseys turned in were youth sizes.
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