Penn State Does Sex Abuse Conference Once Over Lightly

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Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Linda Kelly, today announced the indictment of Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State University, on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury in the decade-plus PSU cover-up of ex-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse. The Spanier charges add to those against two other top administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, and follow the removal of a statue on campus honoring the late head football coach Joe Paterno.

The Spanier indictment comes a day before his successor, Rodney Erickson, is scheduled to address the National Press Club in Washington. That appearance was reset from yesterday, October 31, due to post-Hurricane Sandy travel conditions.

In the wake of Penn State’s Child Sexual Abuse Conference, on Monday and Tuesday of this week, it might be asked whether Erickson’s Halloween plan had been to go to the National Press Club disguised as a do-gooder. The conference program, with keynote speakers Ray Leonard and Elizabeth Smart, was long on broad sentimentality and general “consciousness-raising,” and short on pointed discussion of something that might well have been more actively and effectively embraced by this institution in this post-Sandusky era: the issue of the nexus of child abuse and open amateur sports.

Boxer Leonard, of course, is a major sports figure, but his focus was on the favored theme of awareness, rather than policy and accountability.

As I reported on October 19, B. Robert Allard, the California attorney who represents many victims of our Olympic swimming organization, and heads a group called Lawyers Against the Sex Abuse of Children, got blown off by PSU conference organizers. The university did invite Margaret Hoelzer, an Olympic swimmer who has spoken out on her own abuse when she was a very young child, and makes appearances on behalf of the National Children’s Advocacy Center. But Hoelzer, like Elizabeth Smart, was not victimized in a sports program. And neither they nor Leonard, though courageous for exposing their personal stories, are chroniclers, much less critics, of the ongoing culture of denial and cover-up at USA Swimming.

The first question to Rodney Erickson tomorrow in Washington should be, “Why did your conference this week ignore the swimming scandals, which involve many multiples more sports coaches and young victims than the Sandusky cases centered at your own university? Is that your idea of projecting leadership?”

Tomorrow: We ask Michael Phelps, the face of swimming who is on an Olympics PR junket in Brazil, “Onde você está?” That’s Portuguese for “Where are you” on all this?

Irv Muchnick

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