Riots, support in Paterno scandal misguided


Recently, I wrote an opinion column about the fact that we shouldn’t put religious and political leaders up on pedestals because we’re all human and are bound to make mistakes. I also wrote about the fact that we should hold these leaders responsible for their actions. That piece was a reaction to the indictment of a Kansas City, Mo., bishop and his involvement in not reporting a priest who was taking lewd photos of young girls to the authorities. With the events currently taking place at Penn State and the scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, including the downfall of those responsible, it’s more important than ever to put things into perspective.

For any unaware of the situation, here’s a brief rundown of the events in the scandal, as reported on Nov. 10 by Joe Sterling and Phil Gast of CNN. Sandusky was arrested on alleged child abuse charges, accused by eight victims. Evidence was then brought forth that the current assistant coach, Mike McQueary, had reported an incident back in 2002 to head coach Joe Paterno. In turn, Paterno reported the incident to the president of Penn State, Graham Spanier. From there, information on the incident went no further and the authorities weren’t contacted.

Within the last week or so, with the accusations and rise of evidence, there was some muddled understanding as to what would happen with Paterno and Spanier until finally, the board of trustees decided to clean house and ultimately fire the two. In a show of confused support for the former head coach, students rioted earlier in the week. Most recently, assistant coach McQueary was billed as the interim coach for this past Saturday’s game, but decided to not show because of death threats he had received.

Now that we’ve gotten through all of that, I have to pose the question: What’s more important, athletic tradition or the well-being of children? With the outpour of support for Paterno and the misguided rage labeling him a “scapegoat,” I have to question peoples’ perspectives on the event at hand. Is this really any different from the indictment of the Kansas City bishop?

With the bishop, you had a man who discovered evidence of child abuse and didn’t report it for months while the accused continued his inappropriate actions. With the staff of Penn State, you have men in power who were told about Sandusky’s abuse of a young boy (estimated to be around 10 years old) in their own locker room. These men heard McQueary’s report and decided not to pursue it any further, and didn’t even report it to police.

I realize that the board’s decision to fire Spanier and Paterno were strategized moves to “save face” in the public eye, but they were also very necessary actions to take. These two men had seemingly lost sight of what’s more important and made decisions that ultimately put Penn State’s reputation ahead of the safety of children. I don’t find the term “scapegoat” appropriate for a man who knew of child abuse and didn’t bother to report it to the authorities. Would it not be more appropriate for people to riot over the fact that leaders at Penn State covered up child abuse rather than fire one of those men?

Concerning McQueary, I’m fairly certain he should be ousted as well. Sure, he was a graduate assistant back in 2002 when he witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in the locker room, but should he not be held responsible for his failure to act? Who is to say that the failures of McQueary, Paterno and Spanier didn’t lead to the abuse of more young boys?

Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” put it best when he said, in response to the student riots over Paterno’s firing, “See, I get that it’s probably hard for you to believe that this guy [Paterno] you think is infallible and this program you think is sacred could hide such heinous activities, but there is some precedent for that,” Stewart said. He was referring to the Catholic church. So, what’s more important, a football empire or the possible ruination of the lives of young boys? When it comes to the latter, those responsible for furthering the cycle of abuse have to be held accountable, no matter what reputations it might shatter.

Tyler Brown is a senior in English. Please send all comments to