Penn State has been in the news a great deal these days, and rightfully so. The report that a coach of the powerhouse football team sexually molested children is heinous. That there was such a furor over the firing of Joe Paterno is just as horrific. There have been protests over his firing. People are saying that Paterno should not have been fired, that he did what he was supposed to do by reporting what he heard to his boss.
Paterno is a good coach. I will not deny that. He knows football, and he built the team at Penn State into an awesome force in college football. A dynasty.
Don't ever confuse him with a great coach, however.
Sexual abuse is wrong. It's wrong if a family member does it. It's wrong if a priest does it. It's wrong if a group does it. And it is wrong when a coach does it. Just because an abuser looks 'normal' or holds an esteemed position or is revered doesn't make one iota of difference.
When told by a witness that one of his coaches had been molesting a child in the showers at Penn State, a great coach would not have reported the matter to his superiors and then focused his attention elsewhere. Essentially, he did nothing. A great coach would have gone further. A great coach would have reported what he had heard to child protective services. A great coach would have pulled his underling into his office and asked questions. Most importantly, a great coach would have made an effort to find the child. A great coach would have found that child, no matter what, and helped that traumatized victim instead of just telling his boss about it.
Let there be no more equivocation about this: sexual abuse is WRONG. There is absolutely NO justification for sexually abusing children. There is a hideous tendency for people to blame the victim, especially if the abuser is well-known. That MUST stop. Now.
In the movie Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood's character says that by killing a person, you take "all he's got and all he's ever going to have." Children have a right to be children. It's a murder of innocence when a child is sexually abused, and I know that firsthand. That bond of trust with the world is killed, and what is left behind is an empty place inside that can never be filled again. A person who has been sexually abused will never see the world the same again.
Joe Paterno had a chance to be a great man once. He failed, miserably, and he needs to be held accountable for his part. Stop defending him.