Rivalries are part of the fabric of college football. There’s nothing wrong with some fierce competition and, yes, trash talking in the name of a spirited, long-standing tradition – until one side invokes a child sex abuse scandal. The new “Penn State Shower Shirts” appearing on the internet cross the line into unacceptable territory.
So far, fans from LSU, Iowa, and Ohio State have printed shirts that read: “I’d rather shower at Penn State than cheer for [Alabama/the Huskers/the Wolverines.]”
The shirts were independently printed and are not affiliated with any of the universities. They reference the sexual assaults on young boys by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted on 45 of 48 counts of child molestation. At least one of the assaults took place in the showers in the Penn State football team locker room.
This isn’t something to joke about. It’s not a case of “Too soon;” there is never a time when it’s appropriate to take sexual abuse lightly, particularly when it involves children.
As we’ve seen, Penn State landed in such a horrific mess in part because it didn’t take suspicions of child molestation seriously. Several members of the administration are facing charges directly related to their part in protecting the Penn State football program at the expense of Sandusky’s victims.
Some of the fans who produced the offensive t-shirts are from Ohio State, where just this spring, a top recruit decommitted after unwittingly coming in contact with a registered sex offender while on campus for the Buckeyes spring game. Alex Anzalone, now a Notre Dame commit, was in a photo with sex offender and several others. The university’s compliance department acted swiftly once alerted to the situation, notifying athletes and recruits of the incident and cautioning them not to interact with Waugh in person or via social media.
Buckeyes’ head coach Urban Meyer praised the university for acted immediately. “The first thing you think about is safety of your players and the safety of the university,” he said.
Football is not – and will never be – more important than the safety and well-being of children. Football rivalries, no matter how passionate and enduring, should never reach the level of diminishing the horrors of sexual abuse.
It’s one thing for Big 10 foes to look forward to an easier conference schedule by taking full advantage of a Nittany Lions’ team that’s weakened by NCAA sanctions. It’s another for fans to try to capitalize on the horrors that led to those sanctions.
There are no winners when it comes to sexual predators and child molestation, and anyone who tries to use what happened to those children at Penn State as fodder for football trash talking is a real loser.