GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Gators are no longer celebrating Aaron Hernandez.
The University Athletic Association, which funds the school’s athletic programs, has removed all references to Hernandez in and around the football stadium. The latest and most public one came Thursday when construction workers pulled up a granite plaque commemorating Hernandez as a first team All-America selection in 2009. The brick was cemented into the ground outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
“We didn’t feel it was appropriate to celebrate Aaron Hernandez,” the UAA said in a statement. “We put together an immediate plan after the initial news broke to remove his likeness and name in various private and public areas in the facility, such as the South End Zone team area, locker room, football offices, Heavener Complex Kornblau Lobby and the brick display entrance to the football facility.
“We were able to implement some of the changes immediately, and this (brick removal) was a more complex process to complete with our vendors.”
The school started distancing itself from Hernandez on June 26, the day he was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. The school removed photographs of Hernandez from the locker room, the team area, the football facility and throughout the stadium.
“The plan was to have everything completed before the end of July,” the UAA said.
The final piece was getting rid of Hernandez’s All-American brick. Each of the school’s All-America selections is honored with a plaque outside the stadium.
Hernandez played at Florida from 2007-09 and earned All-America honors as a junior. In 2009, Hernandez became the SEC’s first winner of the Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s top tight end. He left school early and was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft by the New England Patriots.
The Patriots released him after he was charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
Other organizations also have distanced themselves from Hernandez.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio, removed an award-winning photograph of Hernandez from public view after receiving complaints from visitors. EA Sports took Hernandez out of its “Madden NFL 25″ and “NCAA Football 14″ video games.
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