Twice recently, sports enthusiasts have publicly made a bizarre claim - that those of us who talk about known or suspected sex crimes are really trying to influence football games.
That's right. Victims, advocates and law enforcement officials and others supposedly have a "hidden agenda." It's not to help the wounded. It's not to protect the vulnerable. It's not to expose the truth.
It's to help some teams beat other teams.
One such claim comes from Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett. His new lawsuit, which seeks to overturn every penalty levied by the NCAA against Penn State, says “The NCAA…engaged in an effort to cripple Penn State’s ability to maintain a nationally renowned football.”
A similar claim comes from neighboring Ohio, where Steubenville High School coach Nate Hubbard described the rape of a teenager as “just an excuse, I think ...What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that?”
Adding insult to injury, Hubbard then said that people are using the rape and “trying to blow up our football program because of it."
(The coach is evidently a gifted psychologist or psychiatrist. First, he figures out the victim’s motives. Then, he discerns the motives of the hundreds or thousands of those critical of the rapists and their enablers in Steubenville.)
Football fans, like most sports fans, like fair fights. But impugning the motives of others is anything but fair. So let’s cut the foul behavior and language and assumptions. Let’s stop the silly – and hurtful - belief that those who care about victims of athletes and coaches are somehow really rooting for the opposing teams.
After reading about this case, we cannot help but see some parallels between this situation and that which occurred at Penn State. Although the crimes are different, it is a fact of both cases that in each there is a definite mystique around the football program and a cult of personality surrounding the coach (Paterno at PSU, and Reno Saccoccia in Steubenville). In both cases, the love of football has prevented the proper investigation into the alleged rape and the punishment of those involved.
We call on the school board to suspend Coach Saccoccia for his behavior. The fact that he has refused to take any real disciplinary steps towards the football players that either witnessed or in some way abetted the alleged rape is disturbing, and his treatment of the New York Times journalist who spoke to him about the case is frightening. His actions are indicative of someone who cares more about their win-loss record than about the young people they are supposed to be improving.
We also urge the school board to examine the actions of Superintendent Michael McVey and Principal Shawn Crosier. We are disappointed that they left all disciplinary decisions up to Coach Saccoccia, and the fact that they failed to follow up with any of the students in attendance at the party where the alleged rape occurred is distressing. This sad case has all the tell tale signs of an attempted cover-up, and our hearts ache for the victim in this case who has been subjected to undue scrutiny and blame. We hope that the added attention on Steubenville High School will result in justice for the victim, repercussions for the alleged rapists, and accountability for Steubenville officials.
Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, firstname.lastname@example.org