By: Chris Korman | September 27, 2018 11:51 am
Ohio State and Penn State have played brilliant football games in recent years. The Nittany Lions upset the No. 2 Buckeyes 24-21 in State College in 2016, and last year No. 6 Ohio State beat No. 2 Penn State 39-38 in Columbus. Both games offered all you could ever want from a college football game. This year’s game, this week, could very well be every bit as good.
But Ohio State and Penn State have also both been embroiled in controversy related, at heart, to the silencing of victims. At Penn State, officials knew there were concerns about Jerry Sandusky and his relationship with young boys but ultimately did nothing to elevate or investigate the situation. He continued to molest young boys for years, and is now sitting in jail, guilty on 45 charges of sexual abuse.
At Ohio State, Urban Meyer continued to employ Zach Smith, even though Smith was arrested in 2009 on suspicion of domestic violence and even though Smith’s now former wife reached out to Meyer’s wife in 2015 to tell her that the violence had continued.
Given all that, it’s beyond appalling that Ohio State could create and disseminate this:
Penn State has called for a White Out this weekend, a particularly effective gimmick where fans are asked to wear white shirts, giving Beaver Stadium — a bowl that seats around 110,000 — a distinctive look. So, if this were just a football game and nothing else at all could be taken from the word “SILENCE” then … hey, good job, Ohio State marketing team. You would have won the moment!
But no. This sits as yet another example of how thoroughly the country and its discourse have been, for hundreds of years, allowed to sway so that only those with the power (in most cases white, straight men) must have their experiences respected. And that we’re still treating sports like something sacred and separate from “real life.”
In this moment, though — a moment that seems like maybe it could change everything — the fact that this idea ever got beyond the first few minutes of a meeting is despicable.
(Ohio State says the message was the same it used in 2016, but generally multi-million dollar athletic departments thoroughly review their marketing materials before simply reusing them.)
As I write this, one of three women to go on the record with allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is testifying — for all the country to hear — about the time, she says, that Kavanaugh drunkenly tried to rape her in high school.
And the country feels like it is entirely on edge — especially women, and minorities and the LGBTQ community and anyone who has struggled to find equality in a system so intent on silencing them.
This all has been laid bare like never before. A #metoo movement sweeping through the intractable Make America Great Again forest, so many trees rooted in soggy, decrepit old soil, afraid to so much as feel the wind blow.
The president, Donald Trump, has already painted Kavanaugh’s accusers as liars who are part of a plot to derail the nomination. This appears to be based largely on the fact that he likes Kavanaugh and finds him honorable (and also that he himself has fended of many similar accusations).
Millions of fans liked and found Joe Paterno — and therefore his assistants, like Sandusky — honorable. The whole program was honorable. Honor was the word Paterno would have most wanted attached to his program.
Many people still find Meyer honorable, and like him. I’ve found his continued explanations of the situation to be lacking in sincerity and forthrightness but also believe that maybe (look, I know I’m being naive here) going through this will convince him to actually care the next time he is confronted with a battered or abused woman.
But a part of what he — and everyone else at Ohio State — should have gleaned over the last few fraught months is that allegations of misconduct need to be taken seriously. That starts, of course, with actually letting them be heard.
There are a hundred other cheesy ways to riff on the Penn State white out thing in an attempt to energize your fans. But somehow the most offensive one possible escaped from the noxious bubble surrounding Columbus. Maybe, in a different moment, we wouldn’t have noticed. We’re so accustomed to smelling this stench.
But not this time.