- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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A representative with trading card and memorabilia company Panini confirmed to ESPN.com on Thursday morning that the company painstakingly removed Hernandez stickers from 500,000 of its sticker books, which were already produced but had yet to hit the shelves.
Although the stickers come in packs, the company places 10 stickers directly into the books to get a collector started. It was purely coincidence that Hernandez was one of the 10 players chosen.
The company has produced 1 million stickers of new Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow, who happened to play with Hernandez at the University of Florida, to fill the spot. The Tebow replacement stickers will be handed out at events or given to customers who received Hernandez in a pack and send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the company. The company is also allowing sticker collectors to download the Tebow sticker image from its website.
Hernandez, who has already appeared in two of Panini's NFL card sets made for this upcoming season, also will be replaced by Tebow in future card sets.
"We felt strongly that making these changes was the right thing to do, for Panini and our products but, more importantly, for our fans and collectors," said Jason Howarth, Panini's vice president of marketing.
Panini follows Electronic Arts, the Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Fame as organizations that have done things to distance themselves from Hernandez since he was charged three weeks ago with murdering 27-year-old semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. Hernandez pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and five gun-related charges.
Electronic Arts said it took Hernandez out of its "Madden NFL 25" video game and its "NCAA Football 14" product. The Patriots took unprecedented action by taking in more than 2,500 Hernandez jerseys and exchanged them for a new jersey of the fan's choice. The team said it lost at least $200,000 from the gesture.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, recently removed an award-winning photo of Hernandez from public view after it received complaints from visitors.
Hernandez is currently awaiting trial at a jail in Dartmouth, Mass.
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