"Tattoo Scouts" for the NFL?
09:10 AM
Hernandez tattoo.jpgCover of the Boston Herald above.

The tattoo headlines this week have focused on these mythical beings called "Tattoo Scouts," men with special skills who will be able to weed out athletic thugs and protect the delicate sensibilities of America's bastion of good taste and propriety: the National Football League.

The newly coined "tattoo scout" term came about from a Tweet by Bruce Feldman, in which the CBS Sports columnist was commenting on the arrest of Aaron Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end, who was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. The Tweet stated:  "Spoke w longtime NFL personnel man who said in wake of Aaron Hernandez teams may use police experts to check prospects tattoos."

And from there, it all became about tattoo witch hunts -- exploring the morass of bad football player tattoos to uncover a secret past that myriads of background checks and 1,000+ hours of Google searches could not uncover.

It's dangerous precedent to start deciphering the body art of countless NFL hopefuls and base draft decisions on unscientific and flawed beliefs of what constitutes criminal tattoos, especially as motifs that were once relegated to gangs have entered into mainstream tattoo culture.  For example, this Fox News article references the "Smile Now, Pay[Cry] Later" tattoo, which is a tattoo that one can now pick out from flash sheets at shops across the country and is not limited to those with prison records. And while the tear drop tattoo may represent the lives a person has taken, for many today, it also represents loss that did not come from one's own doing.

Beyond background checks, NFL scouts should look to those with greater academic performance, community service, and other positive indicators when picking players, and leave the tattoo reviews to snotty bloggers for art critique and not criminal assumptions.

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