by Max Brantley
I was surprised by the Democrat-Gazette's brief treatment of the explosive Penn State sex abuse scandal that broke yesterday. A retired influential assistant football coach was caught sodomizing a child in a Penn State locker room. Various people were informed, including Coach Joe Paterno, the athletic director and more. Nothing was done except to bar the coach from the locker room. Turns out the man had a history of suspicious incidents.
The coach has been arrested and the athletic director and a senior university official have been charged with perjury. The university president, unbelievably, is standing fully behind his men. (It is beyond argument that university officials made no report to police about their knowledge of an alleged sexual assault of a child.) Paterno so far has been given a pass. Hey, he told his superior, the athletic director. If nothing was done, not his fault.
Make the facts the same, but migrate them to any public school district in America. Do you think you'd need ear plugs for the shrieks of outrage? Do you think there'd be a broad call for accountability, loss of job at least, for every single person in the know who stayed silent as the predator continued to work in a program for needy children?
Mike Wise of the Washington Post isn't silent.
In Warped Sports World, the don’t-ask, don’t-tell, sweep-it-clean behavior is rationalized as loyalty, having your coach’s or teammate’s back, moving on from the problem. It’s seen as a noble quality, putting the team’s needs — the university’s needs — before your own.
Certainly it can be argued that Paterno and Penn State would have been irrevocably hurt if these allegations had surfaced in a police report almost 10 years ago; a program whose legendary defensive coordinator was accused of being a pedophile would lose recruits and, by association, money and prestige. Who wouldn’t want that to go away?
But more unconscionable, if true: putting loyalty to the many, the program, in front of the victimization of even the one, a child.
Not outraged yet? Read the grand jury report.