FOXBOROUGH—A long line of Patriots fans clutching Aaron Hernandez jerseys of all sizes and colors wrapped around Gillette Stadium early this morning to say goodbye to their #81s and trade them in for another player’s number.
The Patriots ProShop at the stadium in Foxborough is offering the free exchange this weekend of any #81 jersey purchased at the store or its online site for a new Patriots jersey of comparable value. The team announced the exchange June 28, two days after Hernandez was arrested in connection with the slaying of Odin Lloyd and dismissed from the Patriots roster.
Dan Harrington, 42, of Melrose left a family vacation in Maine to bring his two sons down to the shop to take advantage of the offer.
“We had a good conversation about how we didn’t want them to wear the jerseys of people who were not good role models,” Harrington said.
His 8-year-old son, Drew, was looking to replace his red Hernandez shirt with a Danny Amendola jersey.
“Now that I get a new shirt, I’m not as bummed,” Drew said.
Or he might get a Tom Brady jersey, as his mother suggested.
“Mommy told us to get Brady because he’s a good guy,” his father said.
The line was so long this morning that the ProShop opened at 9:30 a.m., a half hour early, to accommodate the demand.
The offer is limited to this weekend: today until 9 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“The origin of discussion for this exchange program was to provide customers of our Patriots ProShop, especially parents of some of our youngest fans, an opportunity to exchange their #81s,” said New England Patriots spokesman Stacey James.
The team extended the offer to all customers with the Kraft family’s approval, James said.
According to Stacey, the store had already exchanged more than 500 jerseys, including more than 100 youth-size jerseys, by 11 a.m.
So far, the most popular jersey requested for exchange in the first hour was Vince Wilfork’s, he said, followed by Tom Brady and Chandler Jones.
Though Hernandez has yet to be proven guilty, Wole Oke, 30, of Somerville, said the exchange event was not a premature move.
“They held off until the arrest. Some may think the move was swift but I think this is the Patriots sticking to their core values,” he said. “It’s a message that no player is bigger than the values of their team.”Alyssa A. Botelho can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.