More thoughts on Penn State

Dave Zirin at SFGate:

Penn State scandal symptomatic of football economic monster


This isn’t about Sandusky. This is about a culture that says the football team must be defended at all costs: a culture where the sexual assault of a 10-year-old is reported to Paterno before the police.

This is what happens when a football program becomes the economic and spiritual heartbeat of an entire section of a state. Nittany Lions football regularly draws 100,000 fans to Happy Valley. They also produce $50 million in pure profit for the university every year and have been listed as the most valuable team in the Big 10 conference.

Another economic report held that every Penn State game pumps $59 million into the local economy: from hotels to kids selling homemade cookies by the side of the road.

It’s no wonder that Paterno is revered. He took a football team and turned it into an economic life raft for a university and a region. When something becomes that valuable, a certain mind-set kicks in. Protect the team above all over concerns. Protect Joe Pa. Protect Nittany Lions football. Protect the brand. In a company town, your first responsibility is to protect the company.

Penn State has never been an “outlaw program.” It’s what every school aspires to become. Think about that. Every school aspires to be the kind of place where football is so valuable that children can become collateral damage.

If the allegations are true, if the school in fact knew this was going on, then the program should be shut down. If the allegations are true, Joe Paterno should be instructed to take his 46 years and 409 wins and leave in disgrace.

It’s tragic that it’s come to this for a legend like Paterno. But it’s even more tragic that protecting his legend mattered more than stopping a child-rapist in their midst. Dumping Paterno is not enough for what has to be seen as a systemic cultural failure by the university.

I am 51 years old. I was in kindergarten when Joe Paterno started coaching. Coaches are teachers and college athletics are supposed to build character, not corrupt it.

It would have been a hopeful sign if Penn State had to forfeit the rest of its games because every single member of the team was too ashamed to wear the uniform. Instead we saw students rioting over a perceived lack of respect shown to Paterno. There is a moral cancer that has metastasized in “Happy Valley.”

Penn State should announce it is forfeiting the remainder of this season’s games and that it is immediately terminating its football program for a minimum of ten years. All the coaches and other personnel associated with the program should be laid-off. The statue of Joe Paterno should be removed and all of the school’s football trophies, award plaques and banners taken down and placed in storage.

Any student currently attending Penn State on a football scholarship should be allowed to finish and graduate per the terms of that agreement. All recruiting offers should be withdrawn.

At most a handful of students might have their chances of making it in the NFL impaired. Boo-fucking-hoo. Penn State does not owe them the opportunity to audition for career in professional football. The ones who would be affected are already on the NFL radar screens anyway.

College is not about football, it is about learning. Terminating the Penn State football program will not punish the students, it will teach them a badly-needed lesson in values and leadership.

If and when the moral cancer that allowed the raping of children to go unreported has been completely purged from the school they can consider playing football again.

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28 Responses to More thoughts on Penn State

  1. 1539days says:

    More likely the lesson will be not to do youth outreach programs. Sandusky was the one who started the Penn State program. I can see where this will be seen as a liability issue and kids will be effectively banned from campus in this capacity.

  2. DeniseVB says:

    Before Penn,

    Interesting to see how those worked out, and no child was harmed.

  3. Zaladonis says:

    When the story of these student riots came out, my Facebook friends who support Occupy had a fit and said those students should fight for something useful like Occupy: “income equality.” And my first thought was Occupy’s protests and those students rioting look the same to me.

    Neither seems clear about what they’re fighting for. Occupy’s fighting for “income equality”? What the hell is that? Communism? Despite all they owe in student loans I doubt most of them ever learned what communism is. But if “income equality” doesn’t mean communism, what does it mean? And those students, what are they fighting for? A coach’s right to protect a pedophile so the kids can win one for the gripper? Come on.

    Remember when protests were about ending wars and equal rights for women and blacks and gays?

    “One, two, three, what’re we fightin’ for? Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn. Next stop is Vietnam.”

    • elliesmom says:

      “Hey, Hey, LBJ! How many babies did you kill today?”

    • 1539days says:

      Even worthy protests don’t do much of anything. Myiq has written about how the Vietnam War ended when even the people who hated the protesters could see what was happening there, not because of the protesters. The Tea Party protests were generally derided by the media, but they also used those protests to organize. When 2010 came around, it wasn’t the protesters who changed Congress, it was the people who saw what was going in on in the administration.

  4. yttik says:

    Unfortunately child sexual abuse is so prevalent and the cover ups that go along with it, that if you shut down the athletics dept at Penn state, you’d also have to shut down the Catholic church and congress, too. I hate to sound like a cynic, but Penn state is the norm. There are dozens of cases like that just in my state alone.

  5. insanelysane says:

    Joe Paterno has done more to help young people than all the sports writers , who are condeming him, combined. His football program has always displayed the highest standards. He is a good human being.

    After reading the Grand Jury testimony, it is clear that Mr Paterno only had hearsay information and he immediately followed protocol for such information. JoePa had already gotten rid of Sandusky from the school football program years before this hearsay information came to him.
    How can someone who has only second hand information go to the cops? When asked what he witnessed he could only say what he heard second hand. Accusing someone of this type of crime falsely can have severe repercussions, and without first hand information it was not on Mr Paterno to go to cops.
    He did what he was supposed to do. He reported it to the people in charge of protecting the youth.
    His higher ups are the ones who failed the victims, not Joe Paterno..

    Why isn’t the janitor and the assistant and the grad student …who actually witnessed the abuse being held to the same standard?

    I know why. because the sanctimonious would rather tear down someone famous and respected. It’s much more interesting and better for their own pathetic lives to come off as brave and righteous.

    Destroying this good man is just wrong.

    Take your wrath out on the man who deserves it…the abuser.

    • Lola-at-Large says:

      I’ve read the grand jury testimony and I disagree. There are A LOT of questions about what he knew and when he knew it, and he appears to continue to be protected by the powerful in that state. And some of your facts are inaccurate. Sandusky had access to Penn State grounds and services well after this had come to light in 1998 and he had retired and had his keys taken away in 2002. He also continued to have access to boys via the Second Mile program, of which Paterno was a board member (and I believe still is, or was as if last week). Paterno knew at that point and let that continue. He was listed as Professor Emeritus on the Penn State website and in campus literature until last weekend.

      Paterno might have satisfied the letter of the law–and that’s BIG might–be he is a moral failure.

    • Elliesmom says:

      Teachers are mandatory reporters for any kind of child abuse. Even if the information is secondhand, a teacher has a moral, legal, and ethical requirement to make sure that the legal authorities are informed. It’s not enough to pass the buck to someone else. I don’t give a rat’s ass about what other good things Paterno might have done. He stood by while more children were in danger from his pedophile buddy. He gets held to a higher standard because his weight behind the accusation would have spurred others into action if he had followed through. But they all deserve to be strung by their testicles in the town square. And the young people rioting should be forced to watch

      • sandress says:

        Actually, mandated reporting rules vary considerably from state to state. In some cases secondhand information is not an appropriate source. I can’t speak to what the rules are in Pennsylvania.

        • elliesmom says:

          The rules for mandatory reporting in PA:

          “Reasonable cause to suspect, on the basis of the reporter’s medical, professional or other training and experience, that a child under the care, supervision, guidance or training of that person or of an agency,
          institution, organization or other entity with which that person is
          affiliated is a victim of child abuse, including child abuse by an
          individual who is not a perpetrator.”

          Unless the person who gave him the information has a reputation for pathological lying, I would think that a coach in Paterno’s position had a legal requirement to report. And if he was in doubt about whether he needed to report the sexual abuse, he should have erred on the side of the child.

    • trixta says:

      For some reason the Franklin Scandal link is not posting (…):

  6. Catfish says:

    If and when the moral cancer that allowed the raping of children to go unreported has been completely purged from the school they can consider playing football again.

    The brutal treatment of female detainees was largely overlooked in the U.S. press coverage of the prisoner-abuse scandal. In December 2003 a woman prisoner at Abu Ghraib smuggled a note out of the prison alleging that “U.S. guards had been raping women detainees,” and several were now pregnant. Further, “women had been forced to strip naked in front of men,” reported Iraqi lawyer Amal Kadham Swadi.(4) Swadi had earlier visited another U.S. detention center–at al-Kharkh, a former police compound in Baghdad–where she spoke with another woman who said she had been raped. “Several American soldiers had raped her. She had tried to fight them off and they had hurt her arm. She showed me the stitches.” In a Los Angeles Times article, Tracy Wilkinson reported: “One woman told her attorney she was forced to disrobe in front of male prison guards. After much coaxing, another woman described how she was raped by U.S. soldiers. Then she fainted” from the duress of recounting her experience.(5) The British Guardian newspaper reported , “an Iraqi woman in her 70s had been harnessed and ridden like a donkey at Abu Ghraib and another coalition detention center after being arrested last July.”(6) The Taguba report mentioned briefly that a videotape existed of “a male MP guard having sex with a female detainee,” yet very few journalists pursued this obvious reference to rape.

    Amnesty International has expressed its concern over “numerous human rights violations against Iraqi juveniles, including detentions, torture and ill-treatment, and killings,” and an article in the Scottish Sunday Herald determined that at least 107 children were still being held several weeks after the onset of the prisoner-abuse scandal.(7) An Iraqi television reporter saw the children’s wing of the prison when he was arrested and held for 74 days while making a documentary. The reporter, Suhaib Badr-Addin al-Baz, said that he saw “boys, under the age of puberty” being held. “There were certainly hundreds of children in this camp.” He recalled the beating by Americans of a 12-year-old girl, and added that he “heard her cries and whimpering daily.” This “caused other prisoners to cry as they listened to her.” Al-Baz also mentioned the case of an “ill 15-year-old boy who was soaked repeatedly with hoses until he collapsed. Guards then brought in the child’s father with a hood over his head. The boy collapsed again.”(8) One former prisoner told investigators that he witnessed the rape of a boy aged about 15 in Abu Ghraib.(9) In a speech given in San Francisco in July, Seymour Hersh also asserted that young males were raped by U.S. soldiers: “The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling, and the worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys shrieking.”(10)

    An internal Army investigation released its findings on August 25, 2004, listing several additional examples of the torture and sexual abuse of women and children. The Army report, called the Fay Report after one of the officers responsible for the investigation, disclosed “an alleged rape committed by a U.S. translator and observed by a female soldier, and the alleged sexual assault of a female detainee.”(11) The Fay Report also described the use of “unmuzzled dogs in a sadistic game to frighten detained Iraqi teenagers to force the youths to urinate or defecate on themselves.”(12)

    (No, it’s not unconnected. Don’t kid yourselves.)

  7. myiq2xu says:

    Nebraska beat Penn State 17-14

  8. fif says:

    It gets even worse: I read a report about one of the victim’s mothers today and Sandusky was picking the boy up at school and taking him home–no one at the school bothered to contact the mother and ask her if this was permitted. She had no idea. WTF?

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