Prior to his exposure as a child rapist, I hadn’t really heard of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky or his late boss Joe Paterno. History has been rewritten to reflect that this once great football powerhouse intentionally covered up Sandusky’s crimes against children to avoid damage to the school’s reputation.
The town known as “Happy Valley” has removed the statue of its beloved “JoPa”. Because of Penn State’s ‘conspiracy of silence’, the NCAA handed down major sanctions against the football program; $60 million dollars in fines, banishment from bowl and postseason games for four years and vacated all wins between 1998 and 2011. The situation is disgusting, sad, and perplexing: the cost, incalculable to the lives of the young victims.
The twisted mind of Jerry Sandusky and other pedophiles is beyond the comprehension of normal people who see it for the evil that it is. But what about Joe Paterno? His actions were more complex and, unfortunately, more common; especially among those in positions of power.
How can an award winning coach dedicated to teaching and promoting academic excellence, integrity, and hard work in the young men entrusted to him at the same time make a decision to protect a man under his leadership who, in lifestyle and practice, did irreparable harm to other young men? How does one arrive at a place where greater value is placed on a game of sport than the lives of children?
Of course, the lesson for us all is that it’s not okay to have areas or compartments in our lives that don’t have the benefit of our highest ethical standards and values.
From pastors to politicians, we’ve read, heard about, and experienced the damage that occurs at some point when —for various reasons—we place more importance on our own status rather than humbly admitting that we’ve made an error in judgment.
What’s even more disappointing is the people around these evildoers shield them from punishment to protect their own livelihood. In this instance, the fear of risking damage to Penn State’s reputation, unfortunately, further resulted in the sexual abuse of more children. Why is Sandusky the only one going to jail? How can others who participated in this conspiracy of silence to protect a child molester not be legally charged, as well? Maybe I’m naïve, but how do you avoid prison for covering up a crime, especially the sexual abuse of children? The thought of it, should sicken us all.
I was glad to read the words of NCAA President Mark Emmert—“Football will never again be placed above educating, nurturing and protecting young people”.
Businesses, schools, churches, and other public and private organizations can apply airtight rules and try to prepare for every contingency of breaches in morality, but sometimes evil deeds play out and the damage is done leaving all of us to wonder at what cost are we willing to sacrifice innocent lives to protect our own selfish interests. Let this be a lesson to us all. Sadly, we must be watchful of those who take an interest in our children and learn to LISTEN when our young people express fear of being with them!
Let the Joe Paternos of the world, and others whose outcome may not be as heinous, remind us that: “Compartmentalization—dividing life up into different realms, with different ends, and subject to different rules—is a besetting sin of human beings. (Stephen Green, Good Value)