COLUMN: Focus on Penn State scandal victims, not football
When Penn State coach Joe Paterno was fired after the revelation that he knew about former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse of young boys, the Nittany Lions revolted.
Thousands of students screamed and protested in the streets, according to Reuters. They rioted, tore down light poles and overturned a news van. They blew vuvuzelas and toilet-papered trees, according to The New York Times.
Their reaction was wildly inappropriate.
I can understand the students’ frustrations. If I woke up one morning to find that Bob Stoops and President David Boren had been fired, I’d probably be a little peeved.
However, circumstances change dramatically when alleged child abuse enters the picture.
Football is important. Being an OU student from Texas, I certainly understand the sport is more a religion than a game. My extended family, which has roots in central Pennsylvania, has made sure I am aware of Paterno’s long, historic career at Penn State.
But aren’t innocent people more important than either of these things?
The boys Sandusky is alleged to have abused did nothing wrong. They didn’t asked to be molested in showers or otherwise harassed, and they didn’t ask for the controversy surrounding the firings.
I don’t know if firing Paterno was the right call, but I do know Penn State students’ reactions were out of line.
The riots were exceptionally insensitive to the alleged victims and their families. An anonymous sister of one of the boys told Harrisburg’s Patriot News she was upset people were focusing on football rather than the victims.
“Every class I go to, I get sick to my stomach,” the sister said. “People are making jokes about [the victims].”
It’s time for Penn State students to stop rioting and start developing a culture of acceptance.
Turning cars over because you think someone who allegedly covered up this scandal was unfairly fired does nothing. It does not help get Paterno back. It does not help the scandal go away, nor does it help the victims heal emotionally. It is an act of mindless violence that only hurts.
The students who held a candlelight vigil for the victims Friday night are taking steps in the right direction. The peaceful event united students, faculty and alumni in demanding that an event as horrific as these allegations never happen again.
Speakers at the vigil didn’t deify Sandusky or Paterno. Rather, they spoke of new beginnings and of remembering what happened so it never happens again, according to Reuters.
This positive event shows it’s possible for students to be regretful that the scandal happened yet respectful toward victims and their families. Students who mock the victims and blame them for the firings of the coaches prevent Penn State from moving forward. More importantly, they prevent the victims from moving forward.
Penn State supporters and football fans worldwide must stop rioting and complaining about the firings. Instead, they should focus their attention on healing the Penn State community and creating a society in which victims are supported not ridiculed.
Kate McPherson is a journalism sophomore.