NCAA stands up against scandal
BY CAROL MARIN email@example.com July 24, 2012 7:48PM
Joe Paterno with defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky at Penn State in August 1999. | AP
Updated: August 26, 2012 6:15AM
Who imagined the jock world would act with a greater sense of moral and ethical urgency than institutions of church and state?
In Philadelphia on Tuesday, a Catholic monsignor was sentenced to prison for protecting predator priests and endangering children. In Chicago, yet another seven-figure settlement was paid out to two more victims of police torture. Just the latest developments in scandals that have dragged on for decades.
But here comes the NCAA to show us the way.
In addressing the horrific failure of Penn State officials, including revered coach Joe Paterno, to protect young boys from pedophile Jerry Sandusky, the National College Athletic Association quickly imposed powerful punishments on the university and its elite football program.
“Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said.
There is a name for what happened at Penn State. According to former FBI director Louis Freeh who investigated, it was an “institutional lack of control.”
It is that same “institutional lack of control” that we’ve witnessed in the Catholic Church, which remains to this day more focused on the preservation of its power and authority than on removing from its hierarchy those who have done unimaginable harm, such as Cardinal Bernard Law. While presiding over the Boston Archdiocese, he protected priests who had sexually abused children but remains a prince of the church.
It is the same “institutional lack of control” that allowed former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his officers to operate with abandon in the poorest neighborhoods of the city from 1973 to 1991. Their method of solving crime was to beat, suffocate and electroshock black suspects into confessions. Time and again, there were warnings of what Burge was doing but neither the state’s attorney who became mayor, Richard M. Daley, nor a succession of police superintendents, nor a list of county prosecutors and city cops claimed to have known a thing.
Though Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration deserves credit for trying to settle the remaining torture lawsuits it inherited, it has already taken four decades and $53 million to achieve a modicum of justice for 100 victims. The insult added to the injury is that, thanks to Chicago’s Police Pension Board, Burge still receives his taxpayer-subsidized pension of $3,000 a month as he sits in federal prison.
What all of these stories have in common — whether it is Penn State or the Catholic Church or the Chicago Police Department — is that they are essentially patriarchies. As Duquesne University legal scholar Nicholas Cafardi recently wrote in America Magazine with regard to Penn State, “At its upper reaches, this patriarchy is extremely powerful. At its lower reaches, this patriarchy is intensely loyal . . . When this world is threatened by outsiders, the wagons are circled . . .”
For decades in Chicago, the wagons have been circled on police torture. Ditto for a Catholic Church hierarchy that would rather rein in nuns than remove men at the top who have so compromised it.
By stunning contrast, the NCAA has sent us a teachable moment. A message that actually means something.