• Bob Hohler / Boston Globe

The rise and fall of New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez offered a rare glimpse of the potential consequences of America’s obsession with football. Hernandez was a gifted star who struggled with his sexuality in a game known for its toxic masculinity. He became a psychologically troubled, substance abuser whose problems were overlooked by the nation’s win-at-all-costs coaches. After Hernandez’s murder conviction and subsequent suicide in prison at age 27, leaders of the United States’ most profitable sport tried to erase his legacy. The National Football League wanted to forget that this $41 million tight end had killed one man and maybe more. Hernandez was a reminder of an existential to the NFL’s future: Pathologists determined Hernandez had the most severe case of a brain disease linked to the combat of football - called CTE - ever found in someone his age. The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team worked with Wondery to produce a six-part podcast and print series to ask the questions football would not dare. How did this talented star fall so far? And did anyone ignore warning signs? The podcast offered extraordinary new insight with audio of Hernandez from his phone calls in prison and interviews with his family, friends, teammates, and one of his lovers.


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