First off, this is my platform, my safe haven to speak what is on my heart– therefore, I am acknowledging that my opinion is not objective. If you are looking for unbiased thoughts I encourage you to seek out the news instead. The thoughts I am expressing are deeply saturated in my experiences as both a former collegiate athlete and as someone who is familiar with the effects of sexual abuse.
Breaking news came this morning that the NCAA had ruled to slam Penn State with some tragic consequences for the intentional covering up of Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky and his sexual perverse crimes against many children. If you even remotely watch the news the magnitude of this case has been on the radar for over a year now. In June of this year Sandusky was found guilty by a jury of over 40 counts of child sexual abuse committed over a 15-year period.
Today (Monday July 23rd) the NCAA announced the course of action to be taken against Penn State to include: a $60 million dollar fine to be donated to a fund towards victims of child sexual abuse, banned the football team from bowl games for four years, and vacated all of its wins from 1998-2011. In addition they will lose some scholarships and be placed on probation for five years.
Many sports fans and athletes are outraged by the ruling. Others may feel it was not harsh enough and that Penn State should have the consequence of the football program being completely shut down– as in the “death penalty.”
The unfortunate truth is the tragedy of what occurred at the hands of Sandusky cannot be undone with the strictest of penalties. No amount of fines or consequences to the football program can return anything of true value to the victims. Innocence was lost and memories of unimaginable horror created– no ruling on earth could possibly compensate the damage done. However, I believe that the consequences imposed on Penn State can give the victims a portion of their sanity back. To victims of sexual abuse everywhere the NCAA’s sanctions says the following:
-Sexual abuse is not okay, it doesn’t matter who you are, why you did it, or how powerful or well respected you are.
-Silence of such horrendous acts is unacceptable and has tragic consequences.
The courageous victims who broke their silence to stop Sandusky now have the victory of not only knowing their bravery stopped the creep, but more-so, a precedent has been set for athletic and academic institutions everywhere that the protection of young people is of utmost importance. Thousands of children tragically suffer with the horror of secrets of sexual abuse because they are brainwashed to believe that no one will care, the abuser is unstoppable, or far worse and the most paralyzing lie of all– they won’t be believed. The inditement against Sandusky and the sanctions against Penn State encourage victims from the shame and silence they are often imprisoned by.
But, what about the innocent athletes that have poured their heart and soul into the Penn State program over these years? The NCAA’s actions are considered by many a tragic injustice when considering the time, talent, and athletic success of hundreds of players that truly had nothing to do with the crimes committed.
I know personally what it is like to put in unthinkable amounts of time and energy into athletic success. I played sports from the time I was six years old almost year round. My natural abilities and hard work, combined with the sacrifices and dedication of my parents resulted in me being a generously recruited basketball player in high school. I ended up playing for a Christian University and even at this much less competitive level of collegiate sports it seemed that literally all of my time was spent in the gymnasium. We practiced in the mornings, we practiced evenings, watched videos of opposing teams constantly, practiced weekends, during school breaks, and most of the summer. Basketball dictated my life! I know those who play at a school such as Penn state this experience has to be unhealthily multiplied combined with the enormous pressure to win and succeed as a football program.
Though their wins have been erased from record, the joys of success cannot be erased from the hearts and minds of the athletes. The feeling of a game winning pass, touchdown, or tackle stays within the heart of a champion much more profoundly then a written record or report of the event. If you asked me how many games we won, I’d tell you—- I have no clue. But do I remember some of the highlights of my teams performance and my individual successes? Absolutely! I remember well the thrill of successfully implementing what we practiced! I remember well the high fives and the compliments and congratulations that followed a well executed game. The truth is most athletes relish the unparalleled gratification of the events that surround their achievements much more-so then the statistical data that follows.
Though what happened at Penn state all these years is tough to understand and the consequences are debatable — I do personally believe wholeheartedly God is bringing something good out of this tragedy. As a whole, our culture is now provoked to be aware that such crimes are occurring in churches, schools, families, and organizations across the nation. Widespread publicity of such crimes and strict punishments aides in giving victims a voice and further acknowledges their God given value. So, while some may call epic foul on the NCAA, my heart personally cries “Bravo!”