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The Penn State Scandal: Morals vs. Football

Sports scandals. Whether they’re horrible, exciting, or shocking, the world can never get enough of them. The media goes into a frenzy of rumors, photographs of the newly notorious athlete or coach are plastered on every magazine and newspaper, and ESPN becomes a mini-Perez Hilton for the time being. The newest sports scandal to hit the news this past week, the Penn State scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, has surprised the entire sports world.

Sandusky was arrested on 40 counts of molesting eight young boys over a 15-year period (1994-2009). He started a charity, called The Second Mile, in 1977 that was created to help young, at-risk boys realize their full potential by providing them with an education and other benefits. Sandusky would take them to several Penn State football games and practices, movies, and welcome them into his home for dinners and sleepovers. This all seems nice, right? Well, what was kept under wraps was that Sandusky sexually took advantage of eight of these boys. A graduate assistant and janitors reported on separate accounts that they witnessed Sandusky showering with these boys and engaging in sexual acts in the Penn State football locker rooms. Sandusky claims that he was only “horsing around,” and still asserts that he is innocent of the sexual abuse charges. In wake of the scandal, the head football coach, Joe Paterno, suddenly made the decision to retire at the end of the 2011 season. However, the Penn State Board of Trustees immediately fired him. Paterno was aware of the sexual abuse incidents, and while he reported them to the athletic director, he never reported them to the police, and continued to allow Sandusky access to the Penn State football locker rooms, even after Sandusky retired, where more incidents with children occurred.

One of the largest controversies in this scandal is the firing of head coach Joe Paterno. While Paterno had no legal obligation to notify the police, I believe he morally did. He was well-aware of the child sexual abuse Sandusky committed, and continued to brush his knowledge under the rug in order to protect the image of the Penn State football team and himself. Several Penn State fans are outraged by the Board’s decision, however they fail to realize that Paterno pushed aside morality to uphold reputation. These die-hard football fans have not taken into account that Paterno is just as much a “real person” as he is a world-class football coach. And just
like each “real person”, he had a moral responsibility to fulfill. Moral responsibilities cannot be ignored and pushed aside for a football career as these responsibilities are infinitely more important that winning a football game.

Paterno now states he wishes he had done more, and calls his silence “one of the great sorrows of my life.” Silence is never the answer. Unfortunately, Paterno realized this too late and ended up completely damaging his reputation. No matter

how passionate one is about something, be it football, dance, an instrument, anything; morals should never be pushed aside. The sexual abuse could have ended much sooner had Paterno reported it to the police, but since he did not, he is just as guilty as Sandusky for knowingly allowing this abuse to happen.

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