All That and a Bag of Mail

BOSTON, MA – MARCH 2: Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez sits at the defense table during his double murder trial at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on Mar. 2, 2017. Hernandez is charged in the July 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado who he encountered in a Boston nightclub. The former NFL football player already is serving a life sentence in the 2013 killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. (Photo by Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) Boston Globe

It’s Friday time for the mailbag. 

So let’s dive right in to the question that I’m getting asked more than any other:

“Did Aaron Hernandez kill himself to ensure his daughter got millions of dollars?”

I’ve never gotten more questions about any single subject in one week than about the legalities surrounding Aaron Hernandez’s suicide. That’s all because someone started a meme that said Hernandez killed himself so the New England Patriots would have to pay millions of dollars to his daughter. That meme featured Hernandez alongside a picture of his daughter and it went viral everywhere online. 

The foundation of these memes appears to be rooted in a misunderstanding of a Massachusetts law that vacates Hernandez’s murder conviction because he died before all of his appeals were exhausted. According to the most optimistic legal theories that could mean the Patriots might owe Hernandez more money under his contract because the murder conviction wouldn’t have voided his contract. But that legal technicality has gotten way, way too much attention and been horribly misapplied by people with little understand of the legal system. The practical impact is likely to be totally insignificant from a legal perspective.

What’s more, that legal issue has been at play for several years now. Why would Hernandez suddenly kill himself to take advantage of this loophole? He could have done it for several years. And probably still for several years in the future as well, until he’d exhausted all of his legal appeals.   

While this Massachusetts law might have some impact on the value of his estate — it’s hard to know for sure because the laws at play here are conflicting in complex ways and I’m sure the Patriots would file a lawsuit to keep from paying any more money to Hernandez if Hernandez’s estate sought more money — the end result is likely to be the same — Aaron Hernandez’s estate will now go bankrupt as a result of civil suit liabilities as opposed to Aaron Hernandez himself going bankrupt as a result of civil suit liabilities. Given that wrongful death lawsuits are already pending against Hernandez — and that much of his money has to have been exhausted in legal proceedings already — there is no pile of money waiting for his heirs now that he’s dead.

Remember, there was enough evidence to convict Hernandez of first degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt in the Odin Lloyd criminal case. To win in a civil suit all Lloyd’s attorneys would have to prove is that it’s more likely than not that Hernandez is legally responsible for Lloyd’s wrongful death. 

The only protected asset Hernandez could have is his NFL pension — I’m not an expert in life insurance and we don’t know if Hernandez had any at all or whether the suicide would cancel it out — but even that isn’t likely to be very much money since he only played three years. Unless Hernandez had set up a trust for his young daughter and funded it with substantial amounts of money before he went to jail she is unlikely to ever see much, if any at all, of her dad’s money in the wake of his suicide.  

So stop sharing that meme and tell everyone that is sharing it that they are idiots. 

Demetrios writes:

“Clay-

As a free speech absolutist and avowed radical moderate, how do you feel about what’s going on in Berkeley (and elsewhere) with the violent protests? I know you’ve addressed the general topic numerous times, but it feels like the foundation is cracking here. Political violence in the streets, a media that refuses to cover it, local governments that tacitly condone it, etc. Am I wrong to think this has the potential to spin out of control?”

As a first amendment absolutist I find attempts to silence speech on campus to be shameful. Moreover, the people doing this are also incredibly shortsighted because for much of American history it has been liberal speech that has been most frequently silenced. So you’re fighting against the single most valuable asset that minority groups have had for most of American history. The irony is mind boggling. 

What’s more, if you study American history you also learn that attempts to silence speech fluctuate from the left and right wings of this country depending on the current circumstances. You may remember that it wasn’t very long ago that conservatives were attempting to silence all speech that wasn’t patriotic enough in the wake of 9/11. Now it’s liberals. 

Both behavior disgusts me. 

Because in order for a marketplace of ideas to work then, no big suprise here, that marketplace has to welcome all ideas — however abhorrent you may personally find them — and allow the merits of those ideas to be freely debated in public. Somewhere along the way the left wing in this country decided that some words and opinions were too offensive to be said aloud and in a misguided attempt to protect people began to stifle our country’s most valuable freedom. 

That assault on free speech has advanced so far that now the left wing has come to believe that pretty much every utterance is racist, sexist, transphobic, or homophobic. 

Which is just patently absurd. 

The left wing’s assault on the first amendment is why, for the first time in my life, I didn’t vote for the Democrat running for president in 2016. There is no doubt that in the present day the Republican party is the only major party in America that supports a robust first amendment. (And even that is not absolute because based on his Tweets Donald Trump doesn’t really support the First Amendment either.)  

Jackson writes:

“I’ve enjoyed your coverage of ESPN’s failing business model for quite some time. It’s a fascinating case study that has, until recently, been woefully underreported by the majority of sports media. You were definitely ahead of the curve and it’s been amusing watching the rest of the sports media world catch on.

So my question is this – you are the head of ESPN right now and have total say in how the business will be run. It’s not too late to save the ESPN networks, but something obviously has to change as your contracts come up for renewal. What do you do? Do you partner with other distribution outlets like Facebook, Periscope, Twitter, etc. and cut some of your own networks/costs (ESPN Classic comes to mind)? Do you convince your contractual partners that cable and satellite distribution can coincide with an over-the-top ESPN streaming option? Contractual costs will likely only increase and you have to save the biggest sports network in the country. On the flip side there’s likely costs that can still be cut. What do you do, Clay?”

I don’t think that ESPN’s business can be saved because it’s fundamentally broken and the market forces are now working against the company’s future success.  

Essentially ESPN is a middleman between the leagues and sports fans. Cable and satellite subscriber’s paid money to ESPN which ESPN then gavae to the leagues in exchange for their rights. For a long time what ESPN offered to the leagues was two things: 1. money and 2. distribution.

ESPN now offers, at best, a limited distribution advantage and every month that distribution advantage is being weakened. ESPN’s money is also disappearing as subscribers flee in massive numbers. (And aren’t replaced on smaller digital bundles). 

I think the best case scenario is that you try and keep the network essentially break even over the next 10-15 years as its impact on the sporting landscape slowly declines. That way Disney doesn’t end up losing billions of dollars on a business that makes no sense. 

How would you do that? You would slowly give up all the sporting rights that ESPN has paid billions of dollars for as their contracts expire. The first one to go? The NFL’s Monday Night Football package. I don’t see how Disney/ESPN can afford to pay $2 billion a year or more for Monday Night Football given the current economics of the business. Now maybe ABC can pay for Monday Night Football and they can pull it back off ESPN — or put half the games on ESPN and the rest on ABC, or even simulcast it — and still do the NFL studio shows on ESPN, but I think that will be the first moment when many realize how cashstrapped ESPN has truly become. 

Moving Monday Night Football to ESPN was a massive story, so will pulling it off ESPN. 

That decision will have to be made around 2020 so it isn’t that far off, but I just don’t see any way that Disney isn’t losing billions by putting these games on ESPN in the years ahead. 

In the meantime I think you’ll see ESPN continuing to retrench, laying off employees, and cutting costs. I would short ESPN stock, but the problem here is that Disney’s stock may be protected because of the value being unlocked from Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel.

I just don’t see any way the future marketplace allows ESPN to make the kind of money they are making now.

The business is dead.  

Graham writes:

“I am 27 years old, so Facebook/Twitter/other forms of social media have been an everyday part of my adult life, which is crazy to think about. I’ve been on the verge of shutting down my Facebook for some time now but keep coming back. Twitter is a different story, as I believe Twitter is the best and worst thing to happen to the human race. I got hooked the night Osama Bin Laden got smoked and haven’t looked back. It would be tough to get rid of Twitter because it is so good when it’s good.

My question to you is what do you think would happen if all forms of social media were shut down for a 30 day period? Assuming someone couldn’t code something up really fast to tide people over (the obvious cha-ching move), what do you think people would do? Would there be a mellowing out of people across the board? Would people actually engage in dialogue, or would everyone be sweating so badly waiting for day 31, they couldn’t look at each other?

What if on day 31, everyone had to start from scratch, i.e., everyone would have zero followers/friends/etc., and you had to rebuild whatever you had going? How many people do you think would come back? I assume the major conglomerates would be back in a heartbeat, including people like Shaun King who can only make a living off social media, but what about the average user? What form of social media would take the biggest hit? I would have to think it’s Facebook.

I sort of equate social media to smoking a ton of weed for an extended period. While you’re doing it, it feels great and you think you have a ton of world changing ideas, but if you kick the habit for 30 days, you look back at yourself and think, “What on earth was I thinking?”

One of my old bosses at Fox Digital said social media’s addictive qualities were like crack — once you try it you get hooked — and the people using social media were like the people living in crack houses. And that everyone living in the crack house doesn’t realize how awful it smells or what bad decisions are being made inside the house. That’s because when you live in the crack house you think the world you inhabit is normal. It’s only when you walk outside the crackhouse and leave behind the addictive habit that you realize what a deleterious impact the crack was having on your life. 

Given all the studies about the addictiveness of social media — Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and the like — these companies may well be similar to crack when it comes to addiction as well.

Now the clear difference is that there’s no doubt social media has been enormously beneficial to my career and many others. I’m “good” at Twitter and I love the ease with which the company allows information to be spread. I also love Periscope and Facebook Live and what both mediums have allowed me to do with Outkick the Show. There’s no one who crack has ever benefited except the drug dealers.  

But I definitely think about my relationship with social media quite a bit. Particularly lately because my two year old, when I sit down and play with him, will take my phone, walk it across the room, and put it out of my reach. Then he’ll walk back over to me and say, “There, daddy. Your phone is gone. We play now.”

He sees how much time I spend on my phone even when ostensibly I’m spending time with him. 

I haven’t written any books in several years because the financial benefit of Outkick has been too strong to spend my writing time elsewhere, but there’s a real difference between writing a book and writing online. When you write a book you are trying to produce something that will be just as good a generation from now as it is on the day it’s published. 

On the Internet it’s rare that anyone ever reads an article more than a couple of days after it was published. It’s very immediate and that instant response when you click pubish can be gratifying too, but it’s mostly ephemeral.

Nothing lasts online.

Whereas people come up to me on a weekly basis and still comment on “Dixieland Delight,” or “On Rocky Top” and how much they enjoy the books. Hell, lots of college kids are just finding “Dixieland Delight,” now. We’re still selling thousands of copies of that book every year a decade after it came out.

I want to get back to writing books at some point. 

So I’m thinking about a social media sabbattical in the future and about diving back into another book. I may test out the idea of giving up social media for two weeks this summer when I take my family to Europe and won’t have a perpetual cell signal.

Regardless, I definitely find that it’s easier to think creatively when your mind has time to wander and you aren’t locked into the moment by moment act and response dynamics so prevalent on social media today.

But in the meantime thanks for sharing the mailbag on social media and coming to read it here.

Hope y’all have great weekends.  

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.

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