The family hasn’t started to figure out its next move, Hernandez’s lawyer told TMZ. But it’s likely to be complicated.
“How the NFL treats him from this point forward remains to be seen,” Hernandez’s lawyer Jose Baez told TMZ. “We’re in discussions with his agents to see where he stands.”
Baez said the family, which just had the funeral for Hernandez, wasn’t “racing to the courthouse” to file anything related to his contract.
What is in question is the guaranteed money that remained in Hernandez’s contract when he was arrested in 2013. The Boston Globe put that figure at $5.91 million. The main issue will presumably be whether the Patriots wrongfully withheld bonus money when they cut Hernandez. It doesn’t seem Hernandez can win that battle (and it’s a good bet the Patriots would fight it). The Patriots declined comment to Yahoo Sports.
As the Globe noted, different parts of Hernandez’s contract state “no circumstances exist that would prevent Player’s continuing availability to the Club for the duration of the Contract,” and a player may forfeit his signing bonus if he “is unavailable to the team due to conduct by him that results in his incarceration.” Hernandez was arrested on June 26, 2013 and was in custody until he died on April 19.
Also, the Globe said NFLPA records indicate Hernandez filed a grievance with the Patriots and the two sides settled in 2014. That might prevent further action on his contract, depending on the terms of the grievance and settlement.
There’s also the general conduct language in the standard NFL contract, which states “if Player has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged by Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club, then Club may terminate this contract.” That’s a wide-ranging clause.
“[The Patriots] can decide, according to their own lines, whether someone has violated their contract, so it’s not obvious to me that if you vacate the criminal judgment, now the NFL has to go back to treating him like someone whose contract is valid,” Rosanna Cavallaro, a professor of law at Suffolk University in Massachusetts told Fox Business. “I just don’t see that. There’s a very good argument from the NFL or the Patriots’ perspective that it’s the conduct that we’re interested in, not that adjudication of the conduct.”
And if somehow Hernandez’s family does get back some of that money, there’s still the matter of some wrongful death lawsuits against Hernandez. Hernandez was accused of shooting and killing Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu in downtown Boston, though he was acquitted of those murders. Hernandez was convicted of the murder of Odin Lloyd, and that conviction was vacated after Hernandez’s death. Families for the respective parties in those cases have said they plan to proceed with wrongful death lawsuits against Hernandez’s estate.
There is the matter of Hernandez’s NFL pension, which he earned after playing three NFL seasons. It appears his family can get that.
“My understanding is, if he had a pension that this would not have disqualified him from that,” Baez told TMZ. “But again, I have to defer to them, to those that know that area of law better than myself.”
There’s a lot of speculation about what will happen with Hernandez’s money, and also speculation if financial reasons motivated Hernandez’s suicide. The “You’re rich” line in Hernandez’s suicide note to fiancée Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez offered proof to those who believe Hernandez knew the suicide would enact an old Massachusetts law to vacate his conviction. Baez said he has no reason to believe that Hernandez’s suicide was motivated by the chain reaction that could lead to a fight over some money from the Patriots.
“I have no indication from any conversations with Aaron or any conversations anyone has had with Aaron that we’ve investigated, that makes that true,” Baez told TMZ. “I think that’s such a long shot of a theory that I don’t give it any shred of credibility at this point.”
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