According to multiple reports, many teams in the National Football League (@NFL) are looking to hire Gang Experts and ex-police officers to examine the tattoos of potential draft picks. This is no doubt in reaction to the ongoing murder investigation involving Aaron Hernandez. When Hernandez was drafted by the New England Patriots out of the University of Florida, he displayed heavily tattooed arms. He of course has the infamous “BLOOD” tattoo on his right hand.
To find an NFL player without tattoos is a rarity, and the thought that teams would actually use this evaluation in a fair and unbiased manner is not likely. Yes, an employer has a right to vet and inquire about the life of prospective employees. However, let’s look at the NFL draft. The entire premise resembles a slave trade: hundreds of strong, young men (many of them Black) are brought into rooms where every inch of their bodies are poked, prodded and inspected (and there’s a point where groups of draftees enter a room, standing in shorts in front of team personnel). “Do they have big hands?” “How’s his heart? “Are his arms long enough?” All of these questions get answered during the scouting combine, and that doesn’t even include the interview processes. How likely is it that the tattoos of the Samoan, Black and Hispanic players will be questioned just as much as those on the White players? What prevents teams from passing on a player due to a faulty “tattoo evaluation?” How do the “experts” know what all of the tattoos mean? (For the record, the FTW blog presented an excellent hypothetical about Alabama QB AJ McCaron’s tats…)
I’m not trying to make it a race issue, but I see that this could very easily become a profiling/race issue.
Take for instance Colin Kaepernick. Last year columnist Sporting News David Whitley questioned his leadership as 49ers quarterback, due to this heavily tattooed arms. In the article he points out how many great past QBs were devoid of ink (and he did not make it a race issue, for the record).
It may not be a race issue. It may be simply an issue of protecting investments. However, I would venture to guess that there are multiple tattoos around the NFL that will be found on the bodies of coaches, executives and team personnel. Will examine the tattoos on these people reveal if they are susceptible to driving drunk? Will you find out who the domestic abusers are?
So why the overreaction when one heavily-inked person (allegedly) commits murder? The NFL should really look into pumping the brakes and avoid the panic and overreaction they are finding themselves in. As Tom Brady said, it is time to move on. That applies to all of the NFL.