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Netflix’s Aaron Hernandez Documentary Explores Former NFL Star’s History Of Abuse And Trauma

by Angela Andaloro

The rise and fall of New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez is a subject that’s caught the attention of sports fanatics, pop culture commentators, and more.

The former NFL tight end was convicted of first-degree murder in 2015. Two years later, he was found not guilty of the drive-by double murder of two men outside a Boston nightclub.

No one knew how Aaron got caught up in murder when he had such a promising future. His future was cut short when he was found dead in his Massachusetts jail cell. His suicide came just two days after Boston sports radio personalities outed him on their show. Aaron’s untimely death meant that he was not able to tell his story in a way that he could control — and that the details of the crimes he was allegedly involved in can now only be speculated about.

In its new documentary series about Aaron, Netflix examines multiple angles and aspects of Aaron’s life. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez touches on the abuse and trauma Aaron experienced beginning in childhood and the bullying that persisted throughout his life.  The three-part docuseries examines Aaron’s story through interviews and media coverage and is now streaming.

Note: If you or any of your loved ones are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can always reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255. They are available 24/7 by phone or online chat.

The story of Aaron Hernandez’s rise and fall is one that has mystified many. At 26 years old, the New England Patriot tight end was convicted of first-degree murder. Two years later, the athlete was found not guilty of a double murder drive-by shooting outside a Massachusetts nightclub.

Shortly after his not guilty verdict, investigative journalist Michele McPhee appeared on sports radio’s Kirk & Callahan Show. On the show, she and hosts Kirk Minihane and Gerry Callahan discussed Michele’s investigation into Aaron’s sexuality.

They joked about the rumors that Aaron was gay in a crass matter. While Michele later expressed regret, she did not believe that should have brought Aaron to suicide. “What I said was really inelegant of me, and it’s not something I would have done if I wasn’t on a sports radio show,” she told the New Yorker.

“It’s not a laughing matter, in any way, shape, or form,” she continued. “But I would certainly hope, in 2017, that Aaron Hernandez was more troubled by the fact that he killed his close friend, the boyfriend of his fiancée’s sister, than his sexuality.”

Two days after the news hit the airwaves, Aaron hanged himself in a Massachusetts jail cell. He wrote a Bible verse on his forehead. The former star also wedged cardboard under his cell door to make it harder for guards to get into his cell and stop him.

Netflix examines Aaron’s story within the context of the details that have come to light since his death in Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. The film tells the story through recorded interviews with Aaron as well as accounts from people who knew him. In doing so, we learn of the trauma he endured while grappling with his sexuality.

The documentary begins with an exploration of Aaron’s childhood. His father is credited by other tellings as instilling drive in Aaron that helped him achieve. However, this examines the idea that Aaron’s dad used sports to train what he perceived to be “feminine qualities” out of Aaron.

It also discusses Aaron’s early football career. As his talent grew, so too did the number of people who were willing to keep him out of trouble. Incidents and reports of violence during his college years were taken care of so his career could flourish.

It’s chilling to hear recordings of Aaron’s own musings about his life. Throughout the documentary, you see how Aaron had grown to understand his own behaviors. You see the complexity of Aaron as someone who slipped through the cracks while also being a clearly angry and troubled man.

Aaron’s years on the Patriots were full of success and adoration. It was also an environment that was focused on those things and little else, which allowed him to keep his mind off his conflicting feelings. Aaron’s paranoia built throughout this time.

The documentary also reveals that there was a possibility that news of Aaron’s sexuality was going to come out during his second trial. Aaron’s attorney, George Leontire, worked to keep that from happening. He argued it could cause jury bias.

In talking with those who knew Aaron in jail, the documentary examines all the nuances that make it more complicated than just his sexuality. Inmates talked with Aaron about the childhood sexual abuse he experienced, for example. It paints a more complex picture than previous examinations of his crimes.

In conversations with his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, Aaron complained about inmates who were openly queer. The conversations make the viewer feel that it’s possible Aaron never came to terms with his own sexuality. Instead, he masked his complicated feelings in angry and hateful emotions.

The documentary explores other facets as well. There are the lives of the victims. There’s also the notion that Aaron’s violence was due to chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It offers a well-rounded look into Aaron as a person and a player and how it all led to tragedy.