New England Patriots fans waited in line on a hot and humid summer day at the Patriots’ ProShop to exchange their Aaron Hernandez jerseys.
The store at Gillette Stadium was offering the free exchange this weekend of any #81 jersey purchased at the store or at PatriotsProShop.com for a new Patriots jersey of comparable value. The team announced the exchange June 28, two days after Hernandez was arrested in connection with the slaying of Odin Lloyd and dismissed from the Patriots roster. In the first hour of the stores opening their doors for the day, the exchanged 500 jerseys. More than 1,200 jerseys were exchanged by 5 p.m.
A tent stood outside the shop where patrons could bring in the shirts they wish to return and get a ticket , which can be exchanged inside the shop for another jersey.
“We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don’t want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore,” spokesman Stacey James said in announcing the offer last week. “We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another player’s jersey will be well received by parents.”
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. A notice in the pro shop said only jerseys of Wilfork, Brady, and Rob Gronkowski were available in authentic, women’s and youth styles. Pro shop staff said a limited amount of Tim Tebow jerseys were available, but they moved quickly.
Reminders that a market for Hernandez merchandise still exists loomed over the day. Signage inside Gillette Stadium and on a water tower in the neighboring parking lot has been paid for by eBay, the popular website has seen a variety of Hernandez products draw interest in recent days.
Rookie cards, glossy photographs and jerseys ranging from pink to gray and back to Florida blue are for sale. One jersey is being auctioned for $1,500. For 99 cents, fans can purchase “Murder’s Row”, a set of trading cards featuring Hernandez and retired linebacker Baltimore Ray Lewis, who pleaded guilty to obstructing justice in an unsolved murder investigation.
* The exchange applied ONLY to Hernandez jerseys purchased from the Patriots’ ProShop and PatriotsProShop.com. Jersey owners had to go to the ProShop in Foxborough, Massachusetts, during store hours to exchange.