Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Sports

For the Paterno family, the defense never rests

Joe Paterno's family can't rest.

How can they, when his legacy continues to unravel almost five years after he was fired by Penn State in the wake of a child sexual-abuse scandal involving one of his assistant coaches? How can they relax when Paterno's reputation, once pristine, grows more threadbare with every development in the case?

They can't. Not now, probably not ever. I get it. After all, that's what family is for. But that doesn't make it any less uncomfortable when people defend Paterno.

Last week, a judge's ruling in a civil case filed in Philadelphia revealed a claim that in 1976, a boy claimed to have told Paterno that Jerry Sandusky, then one of Penn State's assistant coaches, had sexually abused him. If the claim is true, that would be a quarter-century earlier than Paterno had said he first learned of Sandusky's abuses — from another staff member in 2001. In that instance, Paterno said that he had reported the accusation to his superior, as required by law. But he did not say that he had ever followed up, or moved to cut Penn State's ties with Sandusky, who is now serving what amounts to a life sentence in prison.

The latest development was a reminder that we will probably never know what Paterno, who died in 2012, knew of the abuse, or when he first learned of it.

On Twitter, Scott Paterno, one of Paterno's sons, tore into the latest accusation, writing: "It would be great if everyone waited to see the substance of the allegation before they assume it's true. Because it's not."

In another Twitter message, he claimed the new story didn't make any sense. Joe Paterno, the son said, would never have protected Sandusky, whom he labeled an "obscure assistant coach no one had yet heard of" in 1976, nor would he have left his own young children alone with him. "It's bunk," Scott Paterno wrote.

But is he right? Who can know for sure? What we do know is that Sandusky did terrible things to children, and even after hearing that Sandusky was discovered in the shower with a boy of about 10, Paterno didn't call the police. He didn't seek to have Sandusky barred from Penn State's athletic facilities, or apparently even question his assistant about what he had been told, even though the two men had been friends and colleagues for decades.

All that makes the Paterno family's continuing efforts to defend the coach hard to watch. But for the victims, this case will live on for the rest of their lives. They can't rest, either. — New York Times

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