When Leaders Forget Their Followers

Penn State incident shows the evolution of organizational cover ups.

I fully intended to post this week's column about Criticism and the Athlete. But with the breaking news of pedophilia allegations against a former Penn State football coach, let's put that off till next week.

Regrettably, sexual predators are not news; it’s not shocking any more unless it occurs to very close to someone you know or within an organization which you value. As the famous bank robber, Willie Sutton once said, “why do you rob banks?” and he replied, “Because that's where the money is.”

It shouldn't be a surprise that we find sex offenders in the ranks of coaching, day care, education or other activities that require adult supervision of children. That is not likely to change. The psychological disease, the mental illness, is not going to go away after the fact, by publicity, public disgrace or incarceration. Therefore it is our duty to become ever vigilant before the fact and talk with our children; observe and listen to the things that may be out of the ordinary.

But that's not what this column is about. What concerns me, and what should concern you as well, is the evolution of the “organizational” cover ups. When pedophilia, spousal abuse, and other acts abhorrent to our value system are uncovered, there are often incidents of a systematic effort to hide the transgression and the transgressor from public exposure.

When did the importance of the organization become of greater value than the victim? Why? When did the coach’s reputation become more important than the player’s rights; when did the school’s status become more important than the athlete’s protection. When did the organization of the church become more important than its parishioners who built the church? When did the political position, the power of the office, become more important than the honor it represents and the constituents served?

In addition to our shared anger at the offender’s act of deprivation; we should be equally repulsed by the repetitive actions of others whose singular priority is protecting the organization as a whole, rather than the individual.

The process persuades future victims that their personal disclosure is pointless and the accusation presents the very real possibility of reliving the incident the second time, but this time in the public eye.

The perpetrators of victim-centered criminal abuse have serious mental illness. However the people who discover their activity and create the cover-up should be held equally accountable. It is reasonable to believe that the cover up is created by people whom we assume know right from wrong. What is puzzling to us all is the fact that they must know that their actions enable the predator to continue abusive behavior. Why then take the risk?

The cover up is not about the sport, educational process, the church or the government. Cover ups are not created to protect and shield the honor of the alma mater, parishioners, students or constituents. It’s about protecting dollars; revenue and power. The neverending circle of more money - more power, more power - more money, is a leadership model known to all and
recognized as the path to success by many.

Cover ups are about personal greed in deference to victim’s needs and justice. It is a preemptive strike based on the fear that someone will make a decision to reduce their donation or perhaps not donate at all. Or that someone will lose power or their job. Therefore they should be prosecuted in the same manner as if they drove the getaway car in the bank robbery.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ken Fredgren November 08, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Thanks, Mr. Pinkman. Every point was spot-on and well said. As a Catholic, I wish we could generate the degree of moral outrage against the cover-up of pedophilia that the sports world, media, PSU students, PSU grads, and the legal profession have generated. Perhaps Kansas City will be a beginning. Ken Fredgren, Reston
Randy Tullier November 09, 2011 at 09:15 PM
Well written and to the point. Thank you for your insights on this terrible situation in our society. Once again the old proverb "money is the root of all evil" rears it's ugly head. Randy Tullier, St. Amant, Louisiana
Chris Purcell November 09, 2011 at 11:56 PM
Very well said!
Lisa Nicholls November 10, 2011 at 07:29 PM
Great article. I appreciate your viewpoint on this.
John Pinkman November 11, 2011 at 02:24 PM
Thank you for your replies. I spent most of yesterday writing more on this evolving story. Sadly this is only the tip of the iceberg. While I'm hesitant to say this I hope this will begin a major culture change in collegiate football. The tail shouldn't wag the dog. However at all levels the campus Presidents, Trustees and local economies must first recognize they are addicts to football revenue. JP


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »