Comment of the Day: Ethics Blindness at Joe Pa’s Memorial Service

Paterno's inaction: bliviousness...or willful blindness?

In the ongoing debate among Joe Paterno sympathizers (and I don’t mean that pejoratively) and those who believe the late Penn State icon failed his ethical obligations miserably and deserved all the criticism he received, several interesting themes have arisen, including whether “obliviousness” is an excuse, whether critics are engaging in “wahlberging”–that is, claiming that they would have handled a difficult situation better when it costs them nothing to make the claim—and whether the Sandusky incident should be permitted to cloud Paterno’s legacy at Penn State, or should be over-shadowed by it. In this Comment of the Day, Proam covers these topics in response to a commenter who wrote, “Other posters who have tried to in any way justify Paterno’s actions/lack of action – GET REAL!”  Here is his comment, to the post, “Ethics Blindness at Joe Pa’s Memorial Service.” I’ll have some reactions at the end. Continue reading

Ethics Blindness at Joe Pa’s Memorial Service

At least Albert Speer didn't have a clear conscience.

I did not expect the speakers at Joe Paterno’s emotional memorial service to avoid stepping on  some of the myriad ethical landmines that lay before them. It was a time to say good things about the late Penn State coach, and there is plenty to say. Still, two speakers did cross deep into unethical territory. Even at a memorial service, when the lessons of the Jerry Sandusky affair are so important for all to learn and accept, it was poor judgment and irresponsible for those honoring Paterno to try to minimize or deny his accountability in the tragedy.

Unethical Statement #1: Nike Co-Founder and Chairman Phil Knight. “Whatever the details of the investigation are, this much is clear to me: There was a villain in this tragedy. It lies in the investigation, not in Joe Paterno’s response to it.”

This got a standing ovation, a reaction every bit as offensive as the Penn State student riots after Paterno’s firing, indeed more so. Knight’s rationalization excuses every Enron executive who knew that the leadership was defrauding investors; every Bernie Madoff family member and enriched investor who knew something was wrong but waited for the SEC to act; every member of the Nixon White House who saw the rule of law being trampled but reasoned that since he wasn’t directly involved, there was no reason to speak up; every member of Congress who knew that Rep. Mark Foley was sexually harassing House pages and kept quiet; and every priest who knew that a colleague was sexually molesting boys and did nothing, because the Church leadership was doing nothing. Knight’s defense of Joe Paterno is a defense of all of these, and indeed a defense of evil. Continue reading