Some of Penn State’s highest-ranking officials apparently knew that Jerry Sandusky was abusing boys while he was connected with the school’s football program.
What is the most shocking, though, is that Penn State officials — urged on by legendary football coach Joe Paterno — deliberately avoided turning Sandusky into authorities, opting to instead deal with the situation internally.
These new allegations were reported over the weekend by the San Francisco Chronicle, which outlined that Paterno apparently persuaded the “Three Sheep” — Penn State’s president, vice president and athletic director — to go easy on Sandusky.
According to the SF Chronicle:
The athletic director, Tim Curley, e-mailed the other Sheep, [saying] “If Sandusky is cooperative, we would work with him.”
Astounding. The Three Sheep, part of a huge flock of JoPa worshipers, decided that confronting Sandusky rather than turning him in “is a more humane and up-front way to handle this.”
How can this have happened?
Part of the answer stems from the natural — though in this case inexcusable — desire to avoid embarrassment.
Yet pride played a crucial role as well. Penn State is the latest in a long line of proud institutions — both public and private — that proved willing to do almost anything to protect their reputation. Large, proud institutions have too often taken the easy way out, neglecting to do what is right and hiding behind their resources, internal rules, and hierarchies instead. Tragically, Penn State is no exception.
Penn State could have, and absolutely should have, done much more to protect children from sexual abuse at the hands of a distinguished, privileged member of their community. But doing so would have cost them a great deal. Doing the right thing would have brought an intense media frenzy like the one that ultimately descended on Penn State. Their prestige, donations, sponsors, and recruiting would each have suffered. Penn State would have become toxic. Rather than risk such tribulation, Penn State’s administration chose to leave an sexual predator free in their own community by quietly dealing with Sandusky internally. Their priorities were crystal clear.
Penn State is far from the first organization to effect a cover up that protects their reputation while ignoring the interests of a public that deserves better. The Department of Justice continues to be far from forthright regarding Operation Fast and Furious. BP purposely minimized how serious the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was. Fresh allegations of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have continued for years. Watergate proved Nixon worthy of the nickname “Tricky Dick.”
Though these comparisons are far from perfect, each of these examples featured a well-known, prestigious institution responding to a horrible mistake by hiding behind its organizational strength and complexity. Each also begged the question: Who knew what, and when?
Sadly for JoePa’s many worshipers, the late, great football coach apparently knew that Sandusky was abusing children while the abuse was ongoing. Paterno’s role in protecting his old friend from being brought to justice allowed at least four more boys to be victimized, and tragically demonstrates that Paterno’s judgment was not as good off the field as it was on it.