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Lavar Arrington and Penn State’s Moral Highground: Overlooking the Weak

After Joe Paterno’s interview in the Washington Post, noted Penn State alum LaVar Arrington offered his perspective in a separate Post column. He basically confirmed everything that was Paterno said, including about Sandusky’s early retirement in 1999 (Arringtons’s senior year), denying that it had anything to do with a campus police investigation into Sandusky the previous year. About half of Arrington’s interview dealt with Parerno’s comments in a thoughtful perspective, but the second half of the piece turned into a biased, propaganda based platform, where Arrington pities his former coach for being the “sacrificial lamb” and blasts Penn State’s board of trustees, referring to their actions as “evil”. This is the best evidence I can find of Joe Paterno being worshiped. Arrington concludes that he hopes time will bring out the truth about Paterno.  (Link:

Only once in his opening does Arrington mention “sexual abuse”, and never says anything about the victims in the case.

Underlying Arrington’s attitude is an air of moral superiority, that the true Penn Staters would have waited for Jerry Sandusky’s trial to determine whether Joe Paterno did or didn’t do the right thing. Jay Paterno also exhibited such an air in his interview with Tom Rinaldi of ESPN a few days after Bill O’Brien was hired to replace Jay’s father. repeatedly, when he was asked about how he would respond to the questions, Jay Paterno repeated there needed to be time for facts to come out, even mentioning the Duke lacrosse case. He was not asked what he would say to Sandusky’s accusers.

Granted, Jay Paterno will take up for his father, as any son would. But I don’t know what it’s fair to expect of Arrington and other former Penn State players who are now in the media, but I do know this: when they speak on this moral platitude, saying “we are better than you, because we wouldn’t have fired Coach Paterno until it was declared in court that Jerry Sandusky is guilty), likely, they are ignoring the fact that many victims of sexual abuse (especially Sandusky’s) are looking at Penn State and seeing place where maintaining a faith in fallen figure is more important than protecting young children from harm.

I’ve already written about how the grand jury report is enough (Link: ). But let me state some facts that have come out: Joe Paterno, as admitted in the interview with Sally Jenkins, listened to Mike McQueary’s reports of Jerry Sandusky’s behavior, and did nothing but report it to his superiors. He did not report it to police or confront Sandusky himself (a fact Sandusky confirmed in his interview with Bob Costas). That is enough for him to be fired; even if Sandusky did not abuse the boy, Paterno had to make sure he hadn’t. Companies and universities reserve the right to do this in many instances, fire employees for conduct embarrassing to the company or university. Paterno’s moral responsibility meant that he had to make sure a child was not being harmed

Even if Paterno had been told that Jerry Sandusky was showering with a boy, that in and of itself is a position of compromise. As I have learned from my home congregation, in whose school a sex abuse scandal broke out ten years ago, people who deal with children have to be above reproach and cannot be in situations where accusations can arise. An adult showering alone with a child is certainly a situation of comprise, whether or not anything happens.

The comparisons to the Duke lacrosse case, while similar in nature, bear almost no weight. Duke lacrosse was about a single night and involved questionable witnesses. Jerry Sandusky has eight victims and over fifty individual accounts, plus multiple independent witnesses. That’s a lot of people who have to be wrong, and Jerry Sandusky clearly has terrible judgment.

But all this belabors the point. Somewhere, there are many children who are hurting because of what Sandusky did do them, and until Sandusky has his day in court, the public needs to support them and stop getting up in arms because Joe Paterno was fired over the phone. Their lives are damaged, and they are the ones who need to be in our thoughts and prayers. Joe Paterno has a devoted wife and children, and many other people who support him. It isn’t wrong for the Penn State fan to say that he or she supports Paterno, but to yell for his honor while young men are struggling with the issues from being abused by Sandusky? That is tragic.

Ultimately, what I hope happens is that one of the victims comes out and tells his side of the story. If they wish to remain silent, that is their prerogative; there will undoubtedly get eaten alive by the sick Paterno worshipers.. But, if some of these victims come out and shared their story, maybe people would realize how pointless it is to be taking up for a coach who should have been retired anyway. Will it change the minds of every rioting, screaming Penn State fan? Probably not, but at least it would Arrington’s comments seem more petty and trivial than they already are.

As anecdote, here are a couple of the more thought-provoking articles I’ve read in the last few days on Penn State. First one, that is more ridiculous pro-Paterno than Arrington’s piece:,0,2045128.story

And a more well, a thoughtful, balanced piece by Penn State alum Janine White (@phillyjanine on twitter) on the meetings where Rodney Erickson faced the brunt of Penn State criticism.

Enjoy, and thanks for the great response to all my Penn State posts. Please share them.

Reaction Sally Jenkins’ Interview with Joe Paterno: He was the Last One to See It Coming

Given how much I’ve written on the Penn State scandal, I was quite interested to hear Joe Paterno’s interview with Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post. (Link: ). Upon reading the interviewthere is one specific point that I am even more confident in:  Paterno should have been coaching Penn State at the age of 84, as evidenced how he responded to Mike McQueary’s report of Jerry Sandusky’s actions.

I do not doubt what Paterno said about how he handled McQueary’s report. But what is telling is when Paterno said he didn’t know what to do with that report, so he waited a day to call his superiors. As I theorized in my earlier posts, I believe that this was an issue that Paterno didn’t have a full understanding of given his generation. That isn’t his fault. But there in lies the problem: Paterno was in a place where he was the one who had to know what to do.

Paterno’s explanation mirrors that of Jim Tressel’s, who said he was scared when he first got an e-mail that his players were connected to a shady tattoo artists. Major college coaches do not have the luxury of passing the buck, and if Paterno did not know how to deal with this situation, he needed to step aside. In the situation he was in, Paterno at least needed to his personal attorney or one of his sons, to make sure what was needed to be done was done. And certainly, the most gaping hole in the story is why Paterno never asked Sandusky himself about the incident. Even if the two had drifted apart, Paterno should have known Sandusky well enough to confront him.

This failing on the part of Paterno is really a failing of leadership. Leadership is not the blind wielding of power out of one’s right to do so; it is doing what is best for a group or an institution, even when it means asking for help in a tough situation. That real leadership comes out of humility.

When I read this story in the Washington Post, I wondered to myself if Paterno asked himself with any kind of honesty, if I don’t understand what it means for a man to rape another man, should I really be in a position where I need to deal with it? Sadly, the world had passed him by, and Paterno was the last to know.


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