When John Lamothe first learned that Aaron Hernandez was under investigation for a murder, he was crushed. Lamothe, who lives in Florida, is a huge Patriots fan, and he especially liked Hernandez because they had gone to the same school, the University of Florida.
But when the sordid details about the case piled on by the day, Lamothe looked at the Number 81 Aaron Hernandez Patriots jersey in his house and knew he wanted it gone.
“I thought about giving it to Goodwill,” he said, “but I didn’t think anybody would want it.”
So instead, he put it on eBay, the online auction site. “I thought I might get $15 for it,” he said.
On Sunday, it sold for $289.
The New England Patriots have cut Hernandez, who was arrested last Wednesday and charged with murder in the death of Odin Lloyd, and cleared any Hernandez-related memorabilia from store shelves. And this weekend, the Patriots ProShop at Gillette Stadium will offer fans who bought a Hernandez jersey at the store the chance to exchange it for another player’s.
But online, a market for Hernandez memorabilia has emerged. One man on Craigslist is offering to buy “anything” related to Hernandez , who has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On eBay, heavy bidding is often driving prices for items well above what the sellers paid for them. More than 1,700 people have viewed a Hernandez jersey listed by Ben Kent, a Pats fan from Virginia Beach. The bidding is up to $227. He paid $50 for it.
The question is: Who is buying the jerseys? And why?
Lamothe said the person who bought his jersey told him just two things: He had overpaid, and he did not want his wife to know what he had done.
“I can’t think of any reason why people would want it,” said Lynn L’Heureux of Oxford, whose $100 Hernandez jersey is up to $127 on eBay. “They might think it will go up in value later on, and maybe it will, but I’m not interested. I just don’t want it in my possession. I want to use the money to buy a jersey that reflects my pride in the Patriots.”
Brett Iannazzo, a 16-year-old from Methuen, put his signed Hernandez Super Bowl jersey on eBay because he felt it was no longer worthy to be in his house, where the living room is painted red, silver, and blue and a framed Tom Brady jersey hangs on the wall.
“I loved Hernandez. I had his rookie jersey. Whenever I got a double in baseball, I’d do his end zone dance; take out the briefcase and make it rain,” he said. “Now, I’m done with that. I’m done with him.”
With a couple of days to go before the end of the auction, Iannazzo’s $100 jersey is already up to $142.50 on eBay. “Maybe they’re people who collect strange items. I know someone who bought a Nazi Germany jacket. Why would anyone buy something like that?”
But people do. There are 49 O.J. Simpson jerseys for sale on eBay.
“I would actually pay money to know the story of who is buying it and why,” said Jeff Brown of Wakefield, who has listed a signed jersey that he and his 9-year-old son, Conor, bought last year at a charity children’s auction.
The jersey was one of his son’s prized possessions, and when news about the Hernandez allegations broke, Brown said he and his wife used it as an opportunity to talk to their son about sports players as role models, to “drive home the point that just because somebody is good at their job doesn’t mean they translate into a good person off the field.”
When he told Conor they were going to sell the jersey, Conor asked if they could wait a year, until he was 10, because he thought it would be worth double if the allegations are proved to be true. “He said, ‘Dad, there are a lot of crazy people in the world who would probably want it if that happens.’ ”
He may be right, but Brown said no. The jersey is up to $127, and the plan is to use the money to take Conor to his first Patriots game.
At Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Shawn Malloy of Topsfield tried to exchange his Hernandez jersey at the Patriots ProShop, but the jersey exchange is only on July 6 and 7.
As Malloy left the shop with his wife and two small children, all dressed in Patriots gear, he said he was appalled that collectors were driving up the prices on Hernandez memorabilia. “It’s kind of gross,” he said.
But because he cannot make it to Foxborough for the jersey exchange, and he has a $280 Hernandez jersey he wants nothing to do with, Malloy feels like he has only one choice to get his money back. He is going to list it on eBay.