Sex abuse scandals in sports likely to continue growing

Child sex abuse is the worst of any sports scandal -- and it figures to grow.

Childhood sex abuse is the worst of any scandal in sports -- and it only figures to grow. (AP photos)

This is a different kind of scandal in sports. There are victims.

Steroids have exposed cheaters and diminished statistical achievements. Drugs and alcohol have ruined careers and knocked heroes off of pedestals. Recruiting scandals and academic fraud have reaffirmed the lost mission of college athletics.

But predators who molest young athletes — they ruin lives and cripple souls. It’s not about somebody trying to gain an advantage on the field or losing their moral compass. It’s about never having the compass. It’s being morally bankrupt. That makes this latest scandal to hit sports the scariest of them all.

What does it say when over 400 Penn State football players, rather than merely focusing on the 52 alleged counts of sexual abuse in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case, seem more concerned about signing a letter in support of former coach Joe Paterno, who was fired amid perceptions that he did not do enough to stop his former assistant coach?

Heath Evans and his wife, Beth Ann, a former victim of abuse started a foundation to help victims and their families.

Heath Evans and his wife, Beth Ann, started foundation to help childhood sex abuse victims and their families. (HeathEvans.org)

“Their loyalty has become delusional,” former NFL fullback Heath Evans said. “Loyalty has crippled people’s judgment.”

Evans retired in August following a 10-year career, most recently with the New Orleans Saints (whom the Falcons play Monday night). He now runs the Heath Evans Foundation, which benefits victims and their families of child sexual abuse. Evans’ wife, Beth Ann, was a victim of abuse when she was in the third grade.

The foundation now has over 100 in active counseling and has

Two men claim former AAU president Bobby Dodd molested them in the 1980s. (ESPN photo)

AAU fired president Bobby Dodd after allegations he molested two boys in the 1980s. (ESPN)

seen a recent surge in people finally coming forward about past abuse, likely in part because of several high-profile stories, including Sandusky, former Syracuse basketball assistant Bernie Fine, former AAU president Bobby Dodd (no relation to the former Georgia Tech coach) and long-time Philadelphia sports columnist Bill Conlin.

Evans said victims were slow to start contacting his foundation when it started in 2006 because, “People don’t want to talk about it. Ninety percent of the time victims know their predator, and they’re discouraged from speaking up.”

It’s happening more now. Brace yourself. More stories likely are coming.

Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin suddenly retired after allegations he molested three girls and one boy, ages 7 to 12, in the 1970s.

Philadelphia columnist Bill Conlin retired after allegations he molested three girls, one boy, ages 7 to 12, in 1970s. (AP photo)

Two of the biggest college athletic programs in the nation – Penn State football and Syracuse basketball – have had major abuse scandals. Logic screams they are not alone.

“I think we’ll see more,” Evans said. “The good thing about what’s going on now with this situation is we’re turning garbage into gold. We’re bringing predators to justice.

“It can’t just be a coincidence that two big programs like this have had this come out. People are looking at this right now and trying to work up the courage to tell somebody about what happened to them. But some are thinking, ‘Well, there’s a statute of limitations [on legal charges] — nothing can happen to [the perpetrator]. The statute of limitations should never run out on sexual abuse. It stays with the victim. It’s like emotional cancer.”

Evans calls sexual abuse “an epidemic.” One out of every four girls and one out of every six males are victim of sexual abuse before the age of 18. Many of those cases occur in youth sports.

A presentation on the “Physical and Sexual Abuse in Sport” in Canada in 1999, quoting the U.S. Olympic Committee’s John Mair, said among those most at risk for abuse are young athletes “who take frequent trips or relocate frequently to be near coaches or authority figures.”

The report referenced a 1995 report from the University of Winnipeg that revealed 21.8 percent of athletes surveyed said they had sexual intercourse with “authority figures.” Of those athletes, 8.5 percent said it was forced, 20 percent said it happened when they were under 16.

Emotions fuel major college athletics. That causes some people to lose perspective. Evans said of the Sandusky/Penn State story, “The abuse and the cover-up didn’t surprise me at all. Joe Paterno being in the middle of it surprised me because of what we knew about his reputation. But if he had any concerns or just an inkling of what the grand jury report said, he was wrong [for not doing more].”

When accusations of Fine’s abuse of two former Syracuse ball boys came to light, coach Jim Boeheim initially accused the alleged victims of lying and extortion: “That’s what this is about. Money.” (Boeheim later backed off those comments.)

Evans’ response, “Those comments were a slap in the face for all victims.”

Chances are, we’ll be hearing from more of them.

You can help support the Heath Evans Foundation and win a trip for four, including tickets, airfare and accommodations, to the BCS championship game between LSU and Alabama. Go to HeathEvans.org for details.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

135 comments Add your comment

Benjamin

December 22nd, 2011
1:49 pm

“Evans calls sexual abuse “an epidemic.” One out of every four girls and one out of every six males are victim of sexual abuse before the age of 18. Many of those cases occur in youth sports.” Wow…

Benjamin

December 22nd, 2011
1:52 pm

I’m still taking the “innocent until proven guilty” approach with these high profile cases, Schultzie, for the record. I do think it’s concerning when so much of an avalanche has come down on both Fine and Sandusky without them having their day in court. Obviously, the nature of the crimes are incredibly sensitive, but there are rights we’re granted as American citizens when it comes to trial by jury, and if they’re guilty, I hope they’re forced to share bunk beds at a maximum security facility for the rest of their lives.

I just want the court system to determine their guilt or innocence vs. the courts of public opinion.

Jon

December 22nd, 2011
1:56 pm

We all need to pray for the victims and lock the predators up forever.

Mr Charlie

December 22nd, 2011
2:02 pm

So, the techies named their stadium after a Child Molester? LOL

Runner-

December 22nd, 2011
2:02 pm

Anyone who would for one second even consider Sandusky to be innocent is an absolute fool. Sure the law states “innocent until proven guilty” but the evidence is already so immense that there is NO WAY he is possibly innocent. Wake up people!! This man should never see daylight again

Benjamin

December 22nd, 2011
2:04 pm

Runner, the only eyewitness in the Sandusky case [McQueary] has visibly changed his story several times. I believe he’s guilty myself, but it’s not our place to judge him. The courts will do so in time.

Mr Charlie

December 22nd, 2011
2:08 pm

My particular favorite harasser was Dick Hand, the Dekalb public safety commissioner. I mean, with a name like that, what do you expect.

Hankie Aron

December 22nd, 2011
2:09 pm

Benjamin is right Runner, and Mr Charlie-grow up. That’s coming from a Dawg fan. You moron

Pooh Pooh Platter

December 22nd, 2011
2:12 pm

Sick of sanducky dawg

Mr Charlie

December 22nd, 2011
2:19 pm

is it beyond the realms of possibility that someone could be falsely accused? I am not saying anyone of the examples are, but, there does seem to be guilty without the burden pro proof mindset here.

Jon Kontract

December 22nd, 2011
2:26 pm

Sure – Sandusky deserves his day in court. That doesn’t mean that we as individuals should not look at the evidence and make reasonable judgements. There are more than 10 folks accusing Sandusky. McQueary has no clear motive to lie about what he saw. By Benjamin’s logic we should all believe that OJ was innocent. Furthermore, Sandusky’s lawyer impregnated a 17 year old when he was in his late 40’s.

It’s clear that many predators have used sports as a cover for their dispicable acts. The only way to prevent it from happening is for the public to be aware of some of the telltale signs. If nothing else, the Sandusky case is going to make people more careful about who has access to children that are not their own.

Herschel Talker

December 22nd, 2011
2:30 pm

Schultzie:

These disgusting animals should all be castrated and jailed for life. What a bunch of pieces of garbage.

HT

Joey

December 22nd, 2011
2:36 pm

Exactly, HT, castration should be the day after all trials/appeals.

UGABugKiller

December 22nd, 2011
2:47 pm

Sexual abuse and rape is worse than murder, especially when it happens to a child who has no idea in most cases that it’s wrong and do what they’re told to do by the abult abusing or raping them, no matter how feel.

With murder, the victim is blessedly free from their pain. Yes, they aren’t here and those left behind may suffer, but the victim’s suffering is over, and no matter what you believe about what or what doesn’t happen to someone when they die, that is a small blessing indeed.

When someone is sexually abused or raped, their suffering can be inifinite. Their suffering will likely last the rest of their lives. And those closest to them will suffer as well.

When it happens to a child, that child is irrevocably damaged, many becoming abusers or rapists themselves.

For the person who thinks these guys are “innocent until proven guilty,” well, I wonder if you would be so pius if they had done that to YOUR child. It’s always funny, the “innocent until proven guilty,” crowd… they have their heads so far up their own hindquarters that they don’t comprehend the fact that “not guilty” is NOT the same as innocent.

Those foul monsters may be found “not guilty” in a court of law, but they are not innocent. Not by a country mile. They are vile and evil and THEY are the kinds of people who deserve the death penalty.

But people like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who voted against Louisianna’s law that made the rape of a child capitol punishment, they seem to think murder, but not the rape of a child, which leaves a living, suffering victim for the length of time that victim has left to walk the earth, is the only crime worthy of the death penalty.

I am a man who loves the Constitution, and I believe in due process. But these men aren’t innocent. And the only thing I want to do is find them, grab them, find a tall oak tree and see them dangle from the tallest, strongest branch until they’ve taken their last, pitiful breath.

Unfortunately, for Fine and Sandusky, the most I can hope for is that they’re accidentally introduced into GenPop in whatever prison in which they end up. A shiv to the kidney works just as good as hanging from a tree.

bear

December 22nd, 2011
2:49 pm

these stories make me so mad. how can anyone do such a thing. once these nasty pieces of $hit are found guilty i say put them in a courtyard with all the victims and the victims parents and let them have there justice. prison is too good for them.

dawgfan

December 22nd, 2011
2:51 pm

Agreed Schultzie. The SEC commits a few secondary violations and its protrayed as the “win at all cost” conference that completely disregards the true mission of collegiate athletics. Meanwhile, its the Big 10 and ACC schools that are committing major violations and thumbing their noses at the rules. Penn State was so concerned about its choir boy image that it refused to report child abuse and Joe Pa was a part of it. Disgraceful.
Thanks.

JSS

December 22nd, 2011
2:55 pm

All of that “fire and brimstone” castigations have gotten us exactly where in the course of human history? Right, absolutely nowhere… Treat the illness, the symptoms are just the course of the disease! (And “treat” includes incarceration) You’ve let people run around and snarling all of that vitriol and cheap theatrics won’t stop pedophiles. Only real attempts at putting safe guards in place, ending that silly “coach-savior” worship, and communities being held accountable for the failure to provide oversight and protection will be a starting point… There is no one true answer, just ongoing vigilance!

Benjamin

December 22nd, 2011
2:55 pm

What if they are innocent of all charges?

JSS

December 22nd, 2011
2:59 pm

Silly idiots, think a castrating a pedophile is going to stop their ability to violate people… Pedophiles escalate their violence with anything available to use as power!

Yosarian77

December 22nd, 2011
3:08 pm

Apparently Benjamin, they are guilty regardless. I am amazed at how many people would rather consider someone guilty rather than receiving their due process. They are obviously not considering how they would want to be treated if they were put in the same situation. Of only all of us had the morality of the internet police……

wxwax

December 22nd, 2011
3:11 pm

@ Benjamin ,

Why do you think McQueary is the only witness in the Sandusky case?

Do you dismiss all the victims who have come forward and will testify in court against him? Do they not count? Are they non-people because he molested them?

Benjamin

December 22nd, 2011
3:22 pm

Non-people? No. Again, I think Sandusky’s guilty myself, based on what I’ve seen.

But the court of public opinion is not [and cannot be] more powerful than the courts that protect ALL our rights, from Sandusky’s alleged victims to Sandusky to you and me. Things like due process and innocence before proven guilt and the right to jury trials and defense are what separate us from third world countries that would run people out of town and burn them in the countryside over allegations.

Let the process play out and then make your assumptions of guilt or innocence. None of us were there, and I’d be willing to bet that none of us have ALL the disposables at our disposal when it comes to knowing all facts of the case.

If he’s guilty, and proven so, I’ll drive the paddywagon to the most maximum security facility we can place him and throw away the key.

Reality Check

December 22nd, 2011
3:26 pm

Do not know about the fine case. The only eyewitness is not McQueary. What about the 18-20 people who testified in court. If you are the vicitim I guess that makes means you are not an eyewitness? Wirh one or two you could always question motives but when you get over 10 people that say the same things happened you do not need much more proof to convict in court of public opinion. I think the death penalty should apply if the court finds Sandusky guilty based on the countless lives he has ruined.

Felix

December 22nd, 2011
3:26 pm

I wish folks would calm down and let the justice system go through the process.

Remember the kid that was falsely accused of the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics and the Duke Lacrosse case. The media was convinced they were guilty before the real facts came out and the charges against them were completely bogus. The woman who accused the Duke Lacrosse players turned out to be mentally unstable, had a long criminal record, and currently is in prison for murder. I believe McQueary is the only eyewitness and he has been all over the place with his statements.

LawDawg

December 22nd, 2011
3:30 pm

Benjamin: We have every right in the world to prejudge the case. To say that truth only comes out in Court is a misnomer insofar as a lot of credible evidence can be kept out due to the rules of evidence. Do you think OJ is innocent? I don’t either. Furthermore, the question in a court proceeding is not “innocent” or “guilty”, but rather, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt or not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean not guilty.

Furthermore, the presumption of innocence is merely a legal presumption that attaches at the outset of a criminal trial until it is overcome by evidence (it only applies to the jurors and the judge). This is the most misunderstood thing in the world. For criminal proceedings Sandusky is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, this in no way constrains you or me or anyone else from presuming his guilt, and the evidence of his guilt is staggering. The guy says he showers with young boys and is attracted to him in the interview where he was DEFENDING himself for Chrissakes.

LawDawg

December 22nd, 2011
3:31 pm

Felix: Not sure you can call Richard Jewell a “kid” and that was a knee-jerk reaction to terrorism, not a logical view of the evidence. Watch Sandusky’s interview and tell me there is a chance in hell that he is not a pedophile.

LawDawg

December 22nd, 2011
3:32 pm

Man, Penn State PR is all over this blog, huh?

wxwax

December 22nd, 2011
3:35 pm

@ Benjamin,

Has Sandusky been denied due process?

If he has, I don’t see it. Hell, he’s not even in jail right now. And he lives right across from a school.

As for Paterno, it doesn’t matter whether or not Sandusky is guilty. What matters is that when he was confronted with evidence that a grown man was raping a little boy in a Penn State football shower, Paterno did the bare minimum. Sandusky doesn’t have to be guilty for Paterno to do the right thing.

Instead, Paterno decided he didn’t want to disturb anybody’s weekend. I wonder if that 10 year old boy’s weekend was disturbed?

Benjamin

December 22nd, 2011
3:35 pm

The Duke parallel is a good one to make here, Felix. 99% of the people who were polled on that deal after it happened believed those guys were guilty beyond the shadow of a doubt, and they dealt with death threats and everything else before even getting a chance to tell their own stories.

Nifong himself belongs in prison for going to the lengths he took to push that case forward even as his case was crumbling, especially seeing that he was doing it for self-promotional purposes. The only individuals whose lives were ruined were those boys, and what do you tell them after all that goes down? “I’m sorry.”?

Also see Richard Jewell. Jewell really WAS a hero in 1996, and the thanks he got for his service were national shame and ignominy before getting a chance to tell his story. The stress from that took years off his life and made him an absolute societal pariah, and Eric Rudolph was hiding in the hills at the time, a free man.

We need to learn our lessons from those instances instead of running to the well every time an allegation comes out, no matter how founded or bulletproof it appears.

Duck a Fawg

December 22nd, 2011
3:37 pm

@ Mr. Charlie: you’re an effin’ moron…big man hiding behind his keyboard

Benjamin

December 22nd, 2011
3:38 pm

Paterno should’ve handled his side better, without question.

Sandusky hasn’t been denied due process in the court sense, but there’s a lot of ratcheted up anger against him – again, because of the nature of the crimes alleged, understandably so – without him being able to at least give his side of the story under the court of law. That’s the difference.

We’ll see how it plays out. Again, if he’s proven guilty, lock him away for good. But don’t presume guilt through media stories and Nancy Grace.

Herschel Talker

December 22nd, 2011
3:39 pm

JSS:

You are a fool. Castration indeed works, as it removes the desires that drive this kind of behavior. Grow a brain, dude.

HT

Benjamin

December 22nd, 2011
3:41 pm

Embrace your rights of due process and a fair trial people, and allow others that right, as well.

Otherwise, we’re chopping off hands under suspicion of theft in markets…

wxwax

December 22nd, 2011
3:45 pm

@ Benjamin

If there’s one place Sandusky will get a fair trial, it’s in State College. Those people are near-delusional in their support for the football program, Joe Paterno and, to some extent, Sandusky.

What those people fail to understand is that their blind loyalty is what made Penn State’s secretive and corrupt culture possible in the first place. A little more skepticism would have served their school better.

If anyone needs to be worried about a tainted jury pool, it’s the prosecution.

Benjamin

December 22nd, 2011
3:47 pm

Sandusky will not be tried in State College, wxwax. I’d be willing to bet my future retirement savings on that.

Joey

December 22nd, 2011
3:48 pm

No, silly idiot, but castration, plus incarceration, will surely slow a pediphile down. What an ass you are . . .

Hillbilly D

December 22nd, 2011
4:05 pm

is it beyond the realms of possibility that someone could be falsely accused?

Read up on the McMartin Pre-School case or the Duke Lacrosse team. It may be unlikely but it is possible. They get a trial and if convicted, then they deserve the severest of punishments.

These are troubling times we live in.

Duane

December 22nd, 2011
4:08 pm

Perhaps the letter says that Joe Paterno was a tremendous influence in their lives who molded them into men. Please remember it was Sandusky who committed the crimes, not Joe. Sandusky was a former employee when he was witnessed doing something in the showers with a boy in 2002, and Joe informed the appropriate people when told about it by the graduate assistant who witnessed it. Other than Sandusky, the person most deserving of criticism is the VP of PSU who seems to have covered up the incident.

Garyl

December 22nd, 2011
4:12 pm

Good article Jeff, I expect alot more to come out—just like with Eddie Long and Bishop Paulk, alot of kids and teens have grown up, married living a life and probably are embarrased to come out, for fear their wifes and friends would know. But in time, there will be more accusations and it will really surprise us who.

bad bob2

December 22nd, 2011
4:18 pm

The media is great at closing the barn door after the horses have been long gone.

RiffRaff

December 22nd, 2011
4:26 pm

I don’t see where anyone at Penn State really tried to stop Sandusky. Even Paterno. Sure it was reported, so we assume. Why was Sandusky still allowed back on campus and to use the facilities?? Why did the assistant coach not go to the authorities or confront Sandusky???? Seems like everyone turned a blind eye to the situation.

GoooDawgs

December 22nd, 2011
4:31 pm

Putting aside the items of due process and what not – regardless of whether these two people are guilty – I think that the core point of the Schulz’s post is that this has shown a lot of light on a situation that has been around for years at the amateur level. Think what you will about guilt of these individual people and situations, the University of Winnipeg study is damning: over 20% of youth’s ADMIT that they have had improper sexual conduct with an authority figure?! Regardless of the guilt or not of these two individuals/institutions’s, it’s shined a light on the prevalence of the problem in our country and I do hope it inspires more people to come forward to get the help & justice they need.

Rodster

December 22nd, 2011
4:37 pm

From what I have read and learned about these various cases it looks pretty air tight for the prosecution, i.e. they are probably as guilty as everyone seems to think. But it is still America. Let the legal system do it’s job. There is too much vitriol being spouted on vents like this and in the news. I think Joe Pa is an arrogant a$$hat and didn’t like him prior to this situation, but honestly none of us really know what we would have done given the exact same circumstances.

Dagny

December 22nd, 2011
4:38 pm

Don’t forget Rennie Curran repeatedly beating up his girlfriend, the mother of his illegitimate kid.

He’s a real tough guy.

Benjamin

December 22nd, 2011
4:43 pm

I agree with that, GoDawgs. The light on the issue is definitely there, and that part of it isn’t a bad thing at all.

Paddy

December 22nd, 2011
4:53 pm

Mr. Charlie…….you sir, are an idiot. This is no time for crude and tasteless jokes at the expense of the victims. Get a life little fella!

Poindexter

December 22nd, 2011
5:01 pm

Please keep comments under 50 words. Must like to see yourself talk

Duh huh

December 22nd, 2011
5:16 pm

Wrong Bobby Dodd Mr. Charlie.

yo mama

December 22nd, 2011
5:22 pm

jeff when are you going to get it right? stop the abuse of coach paterno. didnt your mom said two wrongs dont make a right? thats with the wrongs-1-sandusky, 2-blaming paterno for something he commit.

blame espn fool, they are the media outlet who went on a tirade about how the coach, who i will go on the record and say, did everything the policy handbook, the ethics code, and the commonwealth law of penn says. this media outlet created the havoc toward paterno. the 400 players were defending a victim. get that through your skull man. joepa is innocent, and should sue every media outlet for harassment(see Richard Jewel vs. national broadcast company). the fact that 3 weeks after the penn st story, espn runs a story about bernie fine. and airs tapes they said they had since 2003. cmon, there is the culprit right there, the friggining media!

why is this happening? its happening because when charges like these come up, prosecutors are skeptical they have enough proof, the kids are too young and wont hold up against questioning. so, there you have it, the real reason why many wont go after pedophiles: evidence in getting the conviction. sheer proof. when you go after someone with those types of accusations, the burden of proof in the bottomline.

if someone said, you committed a crime. your employer would have to give you the benefit of doubt. but since you are a public figure, you dont get that much lee way. please, please get it right about coach joe pa. he even admitted he wished he would do more. but he do what he supposed to do. arent cops, lawyers, columnists paid to do what they are supposed to do? coach is a coach, when there is a problem, indentify it, and report it to the superiors!

dang man, please learn the context i have presented to you, because you are wrong 100% RIGHT HERE.

IN FACT. GO LOOK AT GEORGIA HB 571. sonny signed that bill last year, that allows convicted sex offenders to have their name removed from the state list, and basically give them a pass. look it up, i have proof, evidence in one case where a sex offender is back on facebook because of this new law. go after the sponsors, those are the sick ones who sympathize for these offenders.

GO LOOK IT UP NOW!!!!!!!

Oily Rags

December 22nd, 2011
5:25 pm

With regard to sordid sex details . . at least the Braves don’t have so much to worry about with their reputation for wholesomeness. No porn stars hanging with star players here. Hahahahahaha! We must ask Popeye . . . did she look like Olive Oyl?