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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Penn State defense is cowardly, convenient

    On Friday night, thousands of students at Pennsylvania State University held a candlelight vigil to support victims of sexual abuse. On Saturday, thousands more swarmed Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, many of them stopping to tell John Matko to go away.

    Matko stood quietly with two handwritten signs before Saturday’s Penn State-Nebraska game. One read, “Put abused kids first. Don’t be fooled, they all knew. Tom Bradley, everyone must go.”

    According to the Washington Times, passersby dressed in blue, some wearing T-shirts that read, “This is JoePa’s house,” harassed Matko. “Who the fuck do you think you are?” they demanded. They hurled beer at him, or knocked his signs down, and told him what he was doing was “in bad taste.”

    But Matko, a Penn State alumnus and the father of a 4-year-old boy, stood his ground. He picked his signs up whenever they were knocked down. He did not yell. He never raised a fist to fight back. And he did not give in.

    Deep down, it’s possible to see why Joe Paterno and others did the minimum legal requirement instead of doing everything they could to stop Jerry Sandusky from taking advantage of several underage boys over the course of more than a decade. But that part of me that makes it possible to understand why Paterno did not do more? That tiny part of me that understands why he picked silence over action? It is something to be desperately ashamed of. It is ugly, and it is cowardly, and it should be buried.

    As one student told The New York Times, the board “tarnished the legacy” of Paterno when they fired him. He did so many good things, and he’s still a good person, claim his ardent supporters. He’s been demonized by the media.

    But he’s been idolized for so long, lionized by droves of football fans who think his record as a coach matters more than what he’s done as a person. So the students who rioted when they learned Paterno had been fired by Penn State’s Board of Trustees? Cowards.

    Perhaps in years, or even in weeks when the season has ended, they’ll look back and regret that it was easier to defend a man who enabled a rapist than it was to say, “We are sorry we let this happen here.” Because yes. Penn State officials let it happen, and anyone who wants to defend Paterno’s “legacy” makes that OK.

    Doing the right thing is hard. It takes more bravery to let people throw beer at you than it does to overturn a news van. It takes more bravery to dial 911 than to have your superior handle it. But you have to do it.

    The reaction of Penn State football fans to Paterno’s firing demonstrated exactly why rape and sexual assault are so underreported. By refusing to hold people accountable, you let bad things happen.

    When you turn the other cheek, and allow yourself to be distracted, the bad guys go unchecked. And you can dust your hands off and back away, shrugging your shoulders and saying, “I didn’t see this coming, and it’s not all my fault.”

    But you could always do better.

    So on Saturday, while fans headed to the Penn State-Nebraska game, where Paterno once sat on the sidelines, Matko stood his ground with every thrown beer and insult. Because he was tired of letting the bad things happen, and he knew he couldn’t do it anymore.

    You have to kill the tiny, cowardly part of you before it holds you back. Bury it deep.

    — Kristina Bui is the copy chief. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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