Trigger warning: This post contains descriptions of rape, molestation, and abuse.
As you probably know, some epic douchiness transpired recently in State College Pa., where Jerry Sandusky exerted his power as an assistant coach at a semi-religious institution (Penn State Football) to (allegedly) rape boys. And in the six days since the indictment on Sandusky dropped, a douche-laden web of white men protecting the job and reputation of another (alleged child rapist) white man has been revealed.
Sandusky’s charges (40 counts of sexual abuse of eight boys) have rightfully brought the proud Nittany Lions and Penn State’s Board of Trustees to their knees, forcing the firings of University’s President Graham Spanier, and Head Coach/Trailer Park Boys’ Bubbles look-alike Joe Paterno.
The grand jury report details a systemic failure by Paterno and the administration to act on reports of rapes and abuses, and a structure of trust that aided in covering up Sadusky’s despicable behavior. Furthermore, it’s a horrifying but all too familiar tale of a seemingly altruistic man taking advantage of troubled youths that he targeted through his nonprofit, The Second Mile, created to support them.
Naturally, the media coverage and the yammering world of sports punditry have skirted the gruesome details, choosing instead to focus on the impact of the charges on the football program and its coach of 40 years still riding high for achieving the Charlie Sheen honor of ”winningest coach in Division I football.” Part of that diversion from the details is the media’s “kid gloves” (excuse the pun) approach to the horrors of child molestation and rape.
The venerable Paterno (“Joe Pa” or “Joe Paternalistic” as I’ll now refer to him) must accept his role as douchebag for aiding in a cover up of epic proportions, even if he thinks he acted appropriately. For the record, here’s what allegedly occurred: In 2002, a graduate assistant coach witnessed Sandusky anally raping a boy after hours in the Lions’ locker room shower. Shaken, the witness (himself subjected to a power differential as a graduate assistant coach) reported to his superior, Coach Paterno. When someone reports a rape by a 50-something ex-coach (Sandusky officially retired in 1999, but retained access to Penn State facilities) of a ten-year-old boy, alarms should ring from the mountaintops. (Remember that scene in Lord of the Rings when they light those huge fires on top of mountains to send a signal across Middle Earth? Yeah, it should be that kind of alarm.)
And raised they were, only to the wrong people. Joe Pa, ever deferent to hierarchies, reported Sandusky’s rape to the Athletic Director, Tim Curley, and Penn State Senior Vice President of Finance and Business, Gary Schultz. These two douchebags have since resigned (forcibly) and been charged with perjury and failure to report the sex crime. Douchebag Paterno’s punishment was yesterday’s pink slip, which prompted Penn State fans and students to take to the streets in some half-assed show of solidarity.
Yet another douchebag emerged from the Twittersphere, where Ashton Kutcher tweeted, “How do you fire Joe Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste.” (The tweet has since been removed and Kutcher has apologized—good thing considering that he suggested that the firing of a man who covered up child rape was lacking in “class.”)
But back to Paterno. Why report this eyewitness account to a VP of “finance and business”?
Dave Zirin, The Nation’s first and only sports columnist, argues that PSU football’s role in propping up the school and the region’s economy (and spirit) is too big too fail. With an estimated $59 million per game in revenues for the region’s economy, what VP of “finance and business” wouldn’t want to keep this on the down low?
Another member of the white men-in-power douchebag ring is Wendell Courtney, former PSU general counsel and lawyer for The Second Mile (alarms ringing in Rohan yet?), who in 1998 reviewed a university police report detailing an eyewitness account of Sandusky showering with boys. The county’s district attorney chose not to pursue the case against Sandusky.
If this case has done anything, it has only underscored the abuses of power and negligence that can happen when douchebags in charge of other douchebags seek to maintain or further their own financial needs. The PSU athletic department and administration aided a child molester in covering up his crimes and allowing them to persist for far too many years. And for what? A football legacy? A college athletic brand? A region’s economic lifeblood? What are the lives of eight (potentially more) boys when stacked up against a multi-million dollar juggernaut?
Counter to what the students rioting at PSU seem to think, the lives of those boys are worth far more than Joe Paterno’s record, or any title the PSU team might achieve. Obviously the accusations against Sandusky are egregious, but perhaps more egregious is the male-dominated sports industrial complex that failed to take these accounts seriously. Shame on Sandusky and shame on Paterno, Curley, Schultz and the PSU leadership for allowing a predator to remain in their locker room.