Mike Pouncey should explain why he wore what he wore.
The longer he waits, the more it appears he actually believes the message he sent. And if he does believe the message he sent, he should step up and say so.
Because right now he just looks stupid. Or sinister.
The Dolphins center, who always has impressed me as a bright and even a sensitive guy, decided recently to wear a baseball cap with ‘Free Hernandez’ stitched onto it. His twin brother, Maurkice, a center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, did so, too.
And then they posed for pictures wearing the lids at a nightclub party last weekend.
The reference, of course, is to former University of Florida and New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is accused of murdering Odin Lloyd last month in Massachusetts.
Maurkice has apologized, sort of, for his expression of admittedly free speech; Mike has not.
Maybe the Steelers had something to do with Maurkice’s apology, or maybe he issued it of his own accord. The Dolphins would do well to have Mike get in front of the issue — diffuse it a bit — before preseason camp begins this weekend, because it’s going to be a topic of discussion to small or significant extent depending upon what he does.
Mike owes that much to his employer.
Hernandez has not been convicted, and has pleaded not guilty. It’s possible that Mike believes Hernandez, in the face of reportedly overwhelming evidence, to be innocent.
If so, again, say it.
The Pounceys were Hernandez’s teammates with the Gators, after all, and Mike was Aaron’s roommate for a time. That they might be worried about their friend is understandable; that they would be so challengingly supportive of him isn’t.
Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock explained as much in a brilliant piece he wrote earlier this week: “… wearing mindlessly rebellious ‘Free Hernandez’ baseball caps is straight from the in-your-face, shock-value, prison culture/hip-hop culture playbook. It screams the Pounceys place no value on Odin Lloyd’s life.
“Their mentality sounds consistent with the values preached in commercial rap music. … They’re swept up in a culture they don’t fully understand, and don’t fully respect its impact. The rap music industry, the record labels and the commercial artists preach a message to young black people that expressing the most unethical, intimidating, violent, divisive and classless behavior — characteristics necessary to survive incarceration — are success tools in American society.”
Are the Pounceys that naïve?
Are they that impressionable?
Or were they being intentionally provocative and seeking attention?
Maurkice’s so-called apology, via Twitter, didn’t exactly come across as an acceptance of blame.
“I fully recognize the seriousness of the situation involving my former teammate, and I regret that my actions appear to make light of that serious situation,” he wrote. “I apologize to anyone who was offended by my actions.”
His actions didn’t merely “appear to make light” of Lloyd’s death, they trivialized it. And it’s condescending to suggest, as he does, that anyone offended by his actions really shouldn’t have been. It not-my-fault weakens whatever contrition he was offering.
But it was at least a gesture by Maurkice.
Mike, though, is punctuating the ‘Free Hernandez’ message by ostensibly sticking to it through his silence. Own it, if that’s the case. Explain a position he dared to make public with two words on a baseball cap.
ESPN has reported that in addition to the Lloyd murder, Hernandez is being investigated regarding a September 2007 shooting that resulted in the wounding of two men in Gainesville. According to a police report obtained by ESPN, a suspect fitting Hernandez’s description fired shots into a car at a red light.
The police report states that the Pouncey twins, though not involved or present at the shooting, were with Hernandez at a nightclub earlier.
So, they’ve been friends for a long time.
Mike needn’t apologize for his loyalty to a friend, but he should explain how deep it runs.
Does he really believe Hernandez should be free?