Chicagoans react to firing of Paterno

November 10, 2011 4:14:24 PM PST
Local sports fans are reacting to Penn State's decision to fire iconic football coach Joe Paterno in the midst of a child sex abuse scandal.

Paterno was fired the same day he announced he would resign at the end of the season amid a sex scandal involving his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky is accused of sexually abusing eight boys. One incident allegedly took place in the Penn State locker room.

"It tarnishes all sports but to know this is going on in the youth organizations, it really makes you think," said sports fan Tom Boeve. "I think it's one of the most awful things that's ever happened to sports in my lifetime with it being a big school, and I feel terrible about it."

"Everybody's gonna say, 'Poor Penn State, poor Joe Paterno.' You know, forget about those guys, it's the kids who are the victims here. That's where we need to place the focus. They have to live with this for the rest of their lives. In my opinion, they'll never get over that," said sports fan Jack Serrano.

Paterno has come under harsh criticism for not taking more action in 2002 after he was notified about a boy being raped in the team's locker room.

"I think he had a moral obligation to do a little bit more than he did," said sports fan Matthew Teresi.

Chicago-based ESPN sports writer Lester Munson says he believes there was a massive cover up at Penn State that went all the way back to at least 1998 when Sandusky was flagged by police for allegedly touching a child. The case was never prosecuted but Paterno asked Sandusky to retire a year later. Munson says looking back on it now, the word "retired" should be in quotation marks.

"I think that Joe Paterno knew in the late 90s. I think many people on the staff knew, and for some reason, they turned their back on those young boys and thought only about themselves and their football program," Munson said.

Munson believes the trustees at Penn State will have some difficult decisions to make in the near future.

"Perhaps they should say to themselves 'We don't need football. It is so deeply flawed, our culture is so toxic, that we must now remove football for two years and start over again,'" Munson said.

By law Paterno was not required to tell police, and most state laws, including those in Illinois, only mandate reporting from teachers, doctors, and others with direct contact with kids.

"Could there be some tweaking of the law? Possibly there could be, yes," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. "But at the end of the day, you have human beings who witnessed criminal activity going on and chose to do the minimum."

"I think that everyone in a position of authority in some capacity has a moral obligation to report something like this if they see it happening," said Char Rivette, executive director of the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center.

Thousands of Penn State students unhappy with the news that Paterno was fired took to the streets in State College, Penn. The protests turned violent as people toppled over a news truck. Police broke up the crowd firing pepper spray.

While current students may be upset about Paterno being fired, some of his former players are more reflective. They include a couple of current Bears players, like Anthony Adams and Robbie Gould.

"I put a lot of pride in my school and the coaching staff there, so for this to go on is heartbreaking," Adams said.

"Being held accountable for the things that we do, obviously, is something that we all learn from. Obviously we became better people and better athletes by attending Penn State and that's why you go there," Gould said.

At a news conference Thursday morning in State College, Penn, interim football coach Tom Bradley, said he has to find a way to restore confidence. He also said Paterno will go down in history as one of the "greatest men."

"I've had the privilege and honor to work for him, spend time with him, and he's had such a dynamic impact on so many -- so many, I'll say it again -- so many people and players lives," Bradley said.

Bradley will be the first person other than Paterno to coach Penn State's football team in nearly 50 years.

Besides Paterno, also out of a job is Penn State's president Graham Spanier, who graduated from Highland Park High School and received a key to that city in 2005.

Relatives in Highland Park say they spoke with Spanier Wednesday night and maintain he was unaware of the child sex abuse allegations involving Sandusky.

"If he knew, this is not the guy to keep it under the rug. He will tell," said Spanier's sister-in-law Daisy Spanier. "He's a very honest, very straight forward, and a very caring person."

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