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The Shield takes its lumps

Aaron Hernandez, freshly an ex-Patriot, sits in a jail cell tonight, charged with first-degree murder in the brutal execution-style slaying of Odin Lloyd.

A couple hundred miles away, meanwhile, rookie linebacker Ausar Walcott, freshly an ex-Brown, has been charged with attempted murder and held on $500,000 bond for allegedly punching a man outside a New Jersey nightclub, leaving him in critical condition.

They're only the latest among 28 NFL players who've been arrested since the Super Bowl. And I can tell you one thing about all this as surely as I breathe.

The NFL will not be blamed for any of it.

The Shield is bulletproof, it seems, and so the fact that Hernandez is looking at life in prison on a murder rap and Walcott is looking at serious graybar hotel time, too, will not be deemed a significant reflection on the culture of the NFL. Neither will the other 26 arrests.

But if 28 NBA players get arrested in the offseason? If somewhere, God forbid, there's a Hernandez and Walcott waiting to happen on the roundball side?

Why, we'll never hear the end of what a "thug league" the NBA is. And I think you and I and every person with a working brain cell knows why that is.

Partly, and I know you don't want to hear this, it's because the NBA is 78 percent African-American and 83 percent non-white. Mainly, though, it's because the NFL is the Colossus bestride American sports, and thus seems to be invulnerable to the usual slings and arrows of public opinion.

Which is just wrong, frankly.

It's wrong, dead wrong, that the NBA gets subjected to a lot of hand-wringing over its "culture" because a couple of knuckleheads go into the stands in Detroit, while the NFL won't get nearly the same hand-wringing over its "culture," even with a player awaiting trial for first-degree murder and another awaiting trial for attempted murder.

Well. Says here it's high time the hand-wringing commenced.

Ben Smith's blog.