Free Brian Banks: NFL Ought to Give Away Jerseys of Inspirational Falcon
Protect the brand.
The New England Patriots were quick to invoke the phrase when Aaron Hernandez was led out in cuffs and charged with first degree murder on 26 June. They immediately cut ties with the arraigned tight end and, several days later, promised an exchange program where fans could bring in their '81' and '85' jerseys and receive a non-felonious teammate's replacement at no cost. The scheme was acknowledged in many quarters as a shrewd response to a damaging association and, at last count, over 1200 Pats faithful had taken advantage of the initiative.
Although critcs remain, New England appear to have successfully circled the wagons.
Mission accomplished. Brand protected.
In the wider scope of NFL image, though, is protection the only viable strategy moving forward? Given the Hernandez fall is the latest in a monumental litany of player disgrace, is there any chance of advancing protection to promotion?
The perfect opportunity exists right now in Atlanta, where a story of soul-fortifying courage continues to play out. Brian Banks -- convicted of kidnap and rape in 2002; incarcerated for five years; exonerated when his accuser was caught out in the lie by private investigation -- remains on track to gain a spot on the Falcons' 53 man roster for 2013 season. The determined Banks still has a ways to go, but if he does succeed -- and who would bet against him -- he should lionized by the League for the benefit of all.
And it wouldn't be difficult. Borrowing from the Patriots foresight, the strategy could comprise two simple words:
'Jersey' and 'Free'
Words synonymous with the irrepressible, inspirational Brian Banks.