Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno. Photo by Frances Sonne. Creative Commons license.

Why is Penn State getting ready to honor rape excuser Joe Paterno?

College is a place of higher learning, where young adults learn to become adult in life. Teachers are put in a position to prep these young minds for the real world. The same is true for collegiate sports coaches.

And yet we have the story of Joe Paterno. Paterno was the head coach for Penn State University’s football team beginning in 1966 all the way until 2011. In that time he won 18 bowl games and had five undefeated seasons and two national championships. By all of those measures, and many more, Paterno was a success. By other, much more real standards, Paterno was an unflinching failure.

Jerry Sandusky was an assistant under Paterno from 1969 to 1999 and shared in much of the success. He also had a penchant for raping young boys.  

In 2012, Sandusky was convicted of the following: eight counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, seven counts of indecent assault, one count of criminal intent to commit indecent assault, nine counts of unlawful contact with minors, 10 counts of corruption of minors and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of children. That’s 45 total convicted counts. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

This came back into the news this recently, when previously sealed court documents were made public. You see, throughout the Sandusky trial, Paterno maintained he knew nothing of these accusations or their validity. He died before the trial completed. These newly-public documents show a number of witnesses, dating back to 1976, who stated under oath that they told Paterno they were assaulted and that he did nothing. From the court documents:

“Is it accurate that Coach Paterno quickly said to you, ‘I don’t want to hear about any of that kind of stuff, I have a football season to worry about?’” the man’s lawyer asked him in 2014.

“Specifically. Yes.”

How in the hell could anyone turn a child away after hearing such a thing? But it didn’t happen once. There were at least four cases where an incident was brought to his attention — both from victims and fellow coaches who witnessed Sandusky assaulting young boys — and he ignored it.

Related: Will NBA VMP Derrick Rose be the Latest Rape Suspect to Skirt Punishment?

This year is the 50th anniversary of Paterno becoming the head coach at Penn State. The university announced that on September 17, in their game against Temple, Paterno will be honored.  

Honored? How can you possibly think that’s appropriate? The school should be running at warp speed away from any mention of Paterno — and yet they plan to honor him.  That’s not just brazen, but a slap in the face to all of the victims whose pain Paterno willingly ignored, all while his entire job was to mold young people into adults. Paterno didn’t just fail at the most basic requirement of his job, but he’s being praised for it.  

Shame on Penn State.

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