A tainted memory
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
Joe Paterno coached Penn State University football for 45 years. He is the most victorious coach in college football history. His legacy has been recently honoured by Penn State at game commemorations, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first coached game. Paterno’s career ended in November 2011, after he was found to have knowledge of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s chronic sexual abuse of boys as young as 10, creating a national scandal for all of Penn State.
Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse amongst at least 10 boys. He would find victims through his charity for underprivileged youth and repeatedly sexually assault them, including in campus showers. This abuse was allowed to continue and covered up by many authorities at Penn State, largely due to their desire to preserve the football legacy. Victims were coming forward from as early as the 1970s. Sandusky is currently incarcerated in a maximum security prison for 30–60 years, and will likely die there.
When it was discovered that Paterno had knowledge of Sandusky’s actions, he was immediately fired from his coaching position. Two months later, he passed away from lung cancer. Posthumous findings revealed he knew much more about the abuse than he admitted, and participated in the cover-ups.
Sexual abuse is often a fundamentally life-changing event for its victims, and one of the worst things you can do to someone. Paterno may not have been abusing the boys himself, but he knew about it, and he enabled the abuse for years. He did not report the abuser to the proper authorities, or confront Sandusky about his despicable actions.
Paterno’s legacy should be one of a special kind of evil. The kind that sits idly and allows evil to go on in front of him. Joe Paterno’s name is one that rightfully enrages and frightens a lot of people—most of all, the many victims who suffered under the actions of Jerry Sandusky and Penn State. Many victim’s lives were damaged by the abuse perpetuated and covered up by Paterno and other university staff. Due to his actions, Sandusky was not punished, and was allowed to continue molesting children for 15 years.
When Penn State celebrates the legacy of Joe Paterno, they are stating that they believe football games to be more important than serial child abuse. By refusing to fully condemn and disassociate from Paterno, they are implying they find the cover-up of sexual abuse acceptable and unimportant. It discourages victims from coming forward to get the treatment they deserve, and it encourages and enables abusers through denial. In short, it’s disgusting.
If someone was abusing your family member and you later found out their boss was aware of the incidents and repeatedly did nothing, would you want that person’s career celebrated? Penn State does not get to decide Paterno’s legacy or what aspects of his life they should honour. His actions decide his legacy, and his actions include enabling child rape for many years. By honouring Paterno, they are dishonouring the victims and his shameful legacy on the school.