I’ve read very little of the mainstream media coverage of the corruption in the Penn State football program, largely because if I hear/read someone talking about what this means for the future of the program, I may have to commit homicide. As a result, and because I follow some excellent people on Twitter, I suggest the following reading if you want to know what’s going on.
PhysioProf lays out the story in a way that doesn’t dance around the ethical failures of those involved:
Everyone else at Penn State looked to Paterno as their monarch, and when he made it clear that he was going to do the bare minimum legally required about this, they all followed his lead. This included allowing Sandusky to continue to exploit his relationship with Penn State to prey upon and rape more young boys.
For Penn State to allow Paterno to take the field as coach this Saturday and to continue to coach until the end of the season constitutes condonement of child rape, and minimization of the grievous harm that Sandusky and Paterno by their actions have caused to who knows how many young boys. And note that deciding to allow Sandusky the continued use of the reputation and physical infrastructure of the Penn State football program to prey on young boys was an affirmative action by Paterno, not just inaction.
John Scalzi looks at the most widely reported incident at Penn State–the discovery of a rape in progress–and tells you how this works, because, sadly, someone clearly needs to be told this:
These things should be simple:
1. When, as an adult, you come come across another adult raping a small child, you should a) do everything in your power to rescue that child from the rapist, b) call the police the moment it is practicable.
2. If your adult son calls you to tell you that he just saw another adult raping a small child, but then left that small child with the rapist, and then asks you what he should do, you should a) tell him to get off the phone with you and call the police immediately, b) call the police yourself and make a report, c) at the appropriate time in the future ask your adult son why the fuck he did not try to save that kid.
3. If your underling comes to you to report that he saw another man, also your underling, raping a small child, but then left that small child with the rapist, you should a) call the police immediately, b) alert your own superiors, c) immediately suspend the alleged rapist underling from his job responsibilities pending a full investigation, d) at the appropriate time in the future ask that first underling why the fuck he did not try to save that kid.
4. When, as the officials of an organization, you are approached by an underling who tells you that one of his people saw another of his people raping a small child at the organization, in organization property, you should a) call the police immediately, b) immediately suspend the alleged rapist from his job responsibilities if the immediate supervisor has not already done so, c) when called to a grand jury to testify on the matter, avoid perjuring yourself. At no time should you decide that the best way to handle the situation is to simply tell the alleged rapist not to bring small children onto organization property anymore.
PennLive is reporting on reactions at the campus through the eyes of an unusual source, the sister of one of the victims:
For this student and her family, the pain has lasted years. But there was no preparing for how Sandusky’s much-awaited arrest would explode into a scandal that will end the career of legendary coach Joe Paterno and her university’s president.
And in all of that, a message is lost.
“I’ve just been really upset about it all because a lot of people aren’t focusing on the victims in this,” she said. “And instead they’re focusing on other things, like football. As much as you shouldn’t blame the football players … they should be focusing on their respect for the families and what they’ve been through.”
PZ looks at the role that the privilege awarded to football programs has played in creating the scandal:
But they also turn into hyper-inflated domains of privilege, where the coaches are paid more than faculty, students and alumni vividly demonstrate the etymological source of the term “fan”, and the athletes too often turn into swaggering assholes. Can we just have small athletic programs where it’s all for fun, and no one makes the games more important than the academics?
I am speaking, of course, of the sordid events going on at Penn State. Children are raped by an assistant coach; the staff knows about it all for a long time, and either turns a blind eye to it or whimpers among itself; nothing is done. Paterno, the head coach and king of football in Happy Valley, was allowed to sail on unperturbably, still holding his job, still coaching, and the only change in his routine was that the university wasn’t letting the press talk to him. This is the guy who knew about his defensive coach’s behavior for a long time.
Edward Wykoff Williams notes that, while we don’t know the identity of Sandusky’s victims, we do know that they were poor urban boys looking to athletics for help, which makes them likely to be black. He digs into why the inequalities experienced by this group make them particularly vulnerable to this kind of institutional abuse:
The grand jury indictment of Sandusky is written in such a way as to fully protect the victims’ identity, and as such the racial make-up of the children remains unknown. But one defining trait is consistent among the alleged victims of Eddie Long, Sandusky, Oliva and Lorch: they were all poor and/or inner-city, underprivileged youth. This bears out a universal truth, that those with the least defense mechanisms are the most vulnerable.
Young black boys are often disproportionately without resources, left to cling to a hope and a dream, and this often involves athletic aspirations as their way out. In a society that offers them few pathways to success, they can be easily led to trust predators against their better instincts. And with an African-American culture that prizes a hyper-masculine ideal, it is nearly impossible for them to admit when and if they have been victimized by another man.
Much of the media coverage on the events at Penn State has centered on Coach Joe Paterno, his 61-year long career, and the fact that with 409 wins, he recently surpassed Grambling State’s Eddie Johnson to become the most-winning coach in college football history. But is this what really matters? Is there so little concern for the actual victims? And if we as a society allow ourselves to be so sorely misguided, are we not accomplices to the neglect inherent in the victimization of these children?
It’s good to see that some people recognize that this isn’t about anyone’s winning season.