I was pretty surprised that there was even an argument. I didn’t go to Penn State and don’t really follow college sports, so this situation seems pretty black and white to me. I’m confused as to why there is even an argument out there, and why my inbox has been filled with people disagreeing with me–but perhaps things get muddled with unrelated history. Let’s take the context out of it, then, and see if we can agree on the following.
Raping boys is a criminal act and is intolerable, to say the least. I think we can all agree on that.
Setting up a non-profit organization so you have a constant stream of at-risk youth to prey on is even more sickening.
Witnessing these acts without physically intervening if you are able to do so is abhorrent. (With me so far?)
Telling only a supervisor about the incident is not enough.
A supervisor telling only the athletic director and senior administrator, while it *may* cover your ass legally, is unacceptable.
Covering it up, as the athletic director and senior administrator, did is also unacceptable.
Can we agree on this so far? If you had a son or grandson who was sodomized by an adult he trusted, would you want people to refuse to rest until it was resolved? Or would you want them to do the bare minimum to cover their own asses and, say, take the alleged perpetrator’s keys away so that he could find another location to abuse his victims?
We cannot only do the right thing when it is most convenient. It is especially important when it is NOT convenient. Evil does not stop unless it is stopped. It is the responsibility of EVERYONE to stop it. This applies to coaches, athletic directors, administrators and presidents.
Football programs are irrelevant. Coaches and their reputations are irrelevant. Personal relationships with the accused are also irrelevant. Whether or not the alleged actions took place…that’s also irrelevant. That’s for the police to investigate–if they are alerted, of course.
This isn’t the first time there’s been a scandal of this kind in sports. Donald Fitzpatrick comes to mind. And those who are apathetic in the face of crimes of this magnitude are absolutely culpable and should always be held accountable. Their legendary status in sports is irrelevant in the face of the sexual assault of young children or the scars those children bear.
Reading apologists defending Coach Paterno is inexcusable to me. Yes, he may have followed the bare minimum of the letter of the law. But you can’t measure the life of a child–adult now–simply in legal terms. I don’t give a damn what the exact procedure he was supposed to follow was. Desmond Tutu said it best: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Any tears that have been shed for Paterno should have been saved for the children.
How can we move forward on this and perhaps even learn from it? First, by refusing to accept the bare minimum for ourselves. It’s hard and it’s messy and uncomfortable and often nobody even knows about it, but let’s move forward with a startlingly clear reminder that taking action and following through is imperative. And second, by refusing to make excuses for people who blow it by doing nothing. This isn’t a media misrepresentation, and anyone who thinks that needs to open up them eyes.