Imagine you left work for home tonight, just like any other mundane Wednesday in your life. Only you forgot something and decided to turn around and go back to the office to retrieve the item. And when you walk into your office expecting to find the place empty and dark, you happen upon one of your superiors violently raping a woman.
What would you do?
Would you intervene? Call the police? Do everything you could to protect the victim?
Chances are you would do something, right? Something to make sure this co-worker was brought to justice and prevented from ever doing such a thing ever again. If, for no other reason, to provide some level of comfort to the victim of the rape.
That’s what a normal person would do. But that’s not what happened at Penn State.
A graduate assistant walked in on a rape-in-progress on school property. The rapist? An assistant coach of one of the biggest college football programs in the nation. The victim? A little boy.
What did the graduate assistant do? He waited until morning to report it…to his boss, head coach Joe Paterno, who turned around and told his boss, who told his boss.
What didn’t happen?
The police were never called.
The (alleged) rapist was never arrested, merely ordered to never bring children to the campus ever again.
And the little boy? The victim of the rape witnessed by the graduate assistant? Nothing happened. Nothing.
All these men at Penn State—from a graduate assistant (now an assistant coach at Penn State) to the head coach to the athletic director to the president—were informed of the rape and did absolutely nothing about it.
It makes you sick to your stomach. It makes you angry. It makes you sick again.
And what’s worse. I turn on ESPN tonight to see throngs of adoring Penn State students flocking around Joe Paterno, giving him a hero’s homecoming today.
That man deserves no adoration today. That man deserves no hero’s homecoming today. That man deserves no sympathy today. He deserves to be fired.
No, Joe Paterno did not commit the crime. He didn’t even cover it up, really. But what Paterno did is almost worse. He chose to stick to doing what he was legally bound to do and nothing more. Nothing.
The rape I talked about occurred in 2002. A full nine years have passed and the relationship between predator and Penn State was never severed, only modified. Think about that one, Penn State students showering Paterno with so much love tonight. Paterno has known for nine years what happened and did nothing to prevent it from ever happening again.
They say integrity is the act of doing the right thing when no one is watching. How would you say Paterno did on that test? How did the athletic director do on that test? How did the graduate assistant do on that test? To the latter, he came the closest to doing the right thing, yet he still failed. Spare me the missives that McQueary was “only a graduate assistant” at the time. He was a grown man at the time. He could have done more. He should have done more. They all should have done more.
But they didn’t.
Instead, the band played on because there’s another game to play this Saturday and that was more important than doing the right thing.
Mike McQueary, Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz and Graham Spanier deserve to be run out of town on a rail.
Come Saturday, if Paterno is still leading that team onto the field, I’ll never respect or admire Penn State ever again. It will prove to me this program lacks the one quality they insisted made them different, made them better: integrity.
The world is now watching your next step, Penn State. We’ll see if you can get this one right.