New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft broke his silence on Aaron Hernandez when he sat down with a handful of Boston media outlets on Monday.
The 72-year-old, who has owned the team since 1994, recounted his initial shock when Hernandez became embroiled in the investigation of the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old semi-pro football player and the rationale behind the team's actions regarding the tight end who has been charged with murder.
"If this stuff is true, then I've been duped and our whole organization has been duped," Kraft said, via ESPN Boston.
The Patriots drafted Hernandez out of the University of Florida in 2010 and signed him to a contract extension before the 2012 season that included a $12.5 million signing bonus and $16 million in guaranteed money.
“Here we have a guy who, man, it looks like had the world by the tail. He said to me he wanted to be a role model to the Hispanic community," Kraft said, via the Boston Herald. “He was kind enough to give a check for my beloved wife’s memorial charity. He said we’d given him a second chance and I believed him. He was the most likeable young man. This is all sad to me. Very sad.”
Although Kraft had previously remained silent, the actions of his organization have spoken volumes. Less than two hours after police removed Hernandez from his home in North Attleborough, Mass. on June 26, the Patriots released him. Two days later, the team announced that fans would have an opportunity to exchange Hernandez jerseys for gear with the name of another player.
“If any member of the New England Patriots organization is close enough to a murder investigation to actually get arrested – whether it be for obstruction of justice or the crime itself – it is too close to an unthinkable act for that person to be part of this organization going forward,” Kraft told reporters, via Boston.com.
In the days since Hernandez was taken into police custody, a troubling history of brushes with the law has been revealed. Kraft explained that Hernandez answered the Patriots' concerns about his character before the 2010 NFL Draft by writing a letter, telling the organization that it had "absolutely nothing to worry about" when it came to reports of his drug use. According to Kraft, the team saw no indications that Hernandez could be involved in criminal behavior.
“I only know what goes on inside this building. We don’t put private eyes on people,” Kraft said, via Boston.com. “When he was in this building, I was never exposed to anything where he was not positive. He was always polite, respectful.”