The Buffalo, New York, native shared his thoughts a day after a shooter killed 10 people at a Tops Friendly Market grocery store on May 14 in Buffalo. Payton Gendron, the suspected gunman, was arrested at the scene, Buffalo police confirmed.
“Sending much love and many prayers to the city of Buffalo, especially to the families and friends of all the victims of the tragic shooting yesterday,” Gronkowski wrote via Twitter. “Buffalo will always have a special place in my heart and what happened yesterday is devastating. Stay strong.”
The victims were Ruth Whitfield, 86; retired police officer Aaron Salter Jr., 55; Pearly Young, 77; Katherine Massey, 72; Roberta Drury, 32; Margus D. Morrison, 52; Andre Mackneil, 52; Geraldine Talley, 62; Celestine Chaney, 62; and Heyward Patterson, 67. Injured victims included Christopher Braden, 55; Jennifer Warrington, 50; and Zaire Goodman, 20.
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Gun Violence Close to Home for Gronkowski
For Gronkowski, it wasn’t the first time a heinous act of gun violence that’s been close to home.
Former New England Patriots teammate and fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez shot and killed Odin Lloyd in 2013. Hernandez served life in prison without parole before he killed himself in prison.
Gronkowski, who played with Hernandez from 2010 to 2012, spoke about him in an interview with The Ringer’s Kyle Brandt in 2021.
“He was a great football player. I get questions like that all the time about him,” Gronkowski told Brandt regarding Hernandez. “With everything going on, I was definitely shook when I heard that, when I heard everything about it because being his teammate and everything, and you just really don’t see that. You’re not really looking into players like, ‘that’s who they are or that’s what they’re doing’, but just overall, just try to keep it simple and light, and he was a great football player, and that does not mean anything but you learn from other people too.”
It came to light after Hernandez’s death that he had severe CTE and that he had been abused by his father, Dennis, according to the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team. Hernandez notably got involved in criminal behavior as a high school student after the unexpected death of his father in 2006.
Gronkowski Remains Undecided on Future
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles called it ‘status quo’ regarding Gronkowski’s future on May 13 according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Bowles added that there isn’t a timetable per Stroud.
Gronkowski initially said he needed a little time to determine whether or not he would play next season. It soon lasted the whole first half of the offseason amid his off-field activities.
He at least affirmed that he will return to the Bucs if he plays, but he also mentioned in an April interview with SB Nation that contract discussions haven’t begun. Gronkowski, who has an injury-riddled history, gave health as a reason for his delay in an April interview with USA Today.
“I’ve played 11 years,” Gronkowski told USA Today’s Josh Peter. “It’s not like you wake up after a game and you’re feeling amazing. It’s a beating. You get hit every single play.”