Best Column

The Penn State cover-up: Is homophobia to blame?

If the alleged sex-abuse victims had been girls instead of boys, says Daniel Mendelsohn in The New York Times, the whistle would have been blown much sooner

In 2002, when then-graduate-assistant Mike McQueary walked in on former coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly raping a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State football locker room, McQueary didn't call the cops. According to his grand jury testimony, he was "distraught" and left "immediately." According to a recent email leaked to the media, however, McQueary says "I did stop it, not physically ... but made sure it was stopped when I left that locker room." Regardless, says Daniel Mendelsohn in The New York Times, if McQueary had walked in on a little girl being raped, I bet he would have tried harder to rescue her. McQueary's inability to process and respond to the scene of two males having sex, and the university's attempt to sweep the whole thing under the rug, indicates a deep discomfort with homosexuality. "In a culture that increasingly accepts gay life, organized athletics, from middle school to the professional leagues, is the last redoubt of unapologetic anti-gay sentiment," Mendelsohn writes. "When grown men, trained to brave 300-pound linemen, run away from boys in trouble… it's time for a new kind of sports hero." Here, an excerpt:

What lurks behind so many male athletes' vociferous antipathy to homosexuality seems to be deep anxiety about masculinity, the very quality that aggressive team sports showcase. After all, a guy is never so much a guy as when he's playing a violent game or hanging with his teammates afterward in the showers and locker rooms, "horsing around." The familiar ferocious anti-gay swagger many athletes affect is likely meant to quash even the faintest suspicion that anything tender or erotic animates naked playfulness between men.

But true masculinity, like true sportsmanship, contains other virtues, too: Forthrightness, honesty, fair play, courage in difficult situations, readiness to acknowledge error, concern for the weak as well as admiration for the strong. In their handling of Mr. Sandusky, the leaders of Penn State's legendary football program failed to display a single one of these qualities.

Read the entire article in The New York Times.

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