What Do Herman Cain and Joe Paterno Have in Common?

The scandals engulfing the Republican presidential candidate and the deposed Penn State football coach are fruit from the same poisoned tree.

By Akiba Solomon Nov 11, 2011

I don’t give a damn about football.

I don’t care about Joe Paterno or his precious legacy as the winningest coach in Division I history. That he espoused honor and scholarship to his players, put Pennsylvania State University on the national map, made the school $52.3 million, or meant a lot to the 4,000 morally deficient cult members students who literally rioted after the 84-year-old was fired for looking the other way while his defensive coordinator, Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky, allegedly raped, sodomized, fondled and manipulated young, poor boys under the guise of charity. 

I care about Victim 2, the 10-year-old boy whom coach Sandusky hand-picked from his Second Mile mentoring program for "underprivileged" boys from "dysfunctional" families and allegedly raped in a Penn State shower.

And Victim 1, whom Sandusky allegedly molested from age 11 to about 14, when the two were discovered "wrestling" at the child’s high school. 

And Victim 4, who at 12 or 13 went to Sandusky’s family picnics, sat at his banquet tables, and travelled to various Bowls where his mentor allegedly sodomized him and threatened to send him home when he refused to do more. 

I care about Victims 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8, the other young men whom Sandusky had easy access to because they were poor and needed what every child does–nurturing. 

In a guest post on Mark Anthony Neal’s New Black Man blog, Kevin Powell connects the Paterno/Sandusky/Penn State madness to the sexual harassment allegations against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain:

What Herman Cain and the disgraced male leaders of Penn State have in common is the issue of power and privilege we men not only wield like our birthright, but which has come to be so inextricably linked to our identities. So much so, in fact, that many of us, regardless of race, class, religion and, in some cases, even sexual orientation or physical abilities, don’t even realize what a disaster manhood is when it is unapologetically invested in power, privilege, patriarchy, sexism, and a reckless disregard for the safety and sanity of others, especially women and children.


For sure, nothing sadder and more tragic than to see 84-year-old Coach Joe Paterno, who I’ve admired since I was a child, throwing away 46 years of coaching heroism and worship (and 62 total years on the school’s football staff) because the power, glory, and symbolism of Penn State football was above protecting the boys allegedly touched and molested by Sandusky. Equally sad and tragic when Mr. Cain’s supporters are quick to call what is happening to him a lynching when this man, this Black man, has never been tarred and feathered, never been hung from a tree, never had his testicles cut from his body, never been set on fire, as many Black men were, in America, in the days when lynching was as big a national sport as college football is today. Anything, it seems, to refute the very graphic and detailed stories of the women accusing Mr. Cain of profoundly wrong, unprofessional, and inhuman conduct.

Powell gets at what I’ve been trying to figure out over the past couple of days. When I heard about Herman Cain, I thought of Clarence Thomas and Dominique Strass-Kahn, even though the details of their alleged crimes and misconduct are different in scope and severity. 

When the names "Sandusky" and "Paterno" hit the news cycle, I visualized a new Mount Rushmore featuring those two, Eddie Long and a string of Catholic priests whose names I don’t know but whose crimes have marred thousands. 

I don’t give a damn about Herman Cain and his Godfather’s Pizza fortune, his national bestseller, his Koch Brothers-from-another-mother, his coon-time gospel-singing, his Ubecki-becki-becki-becki-stan-stan-saying, or the fact that he’s running for president on a Tomfoolery platform. He doesn’t embarrass me anymore because he’s proven that he isn’t a member of my Thinking Peoples’ tribe. 

What has me in knots is how Cain has the nerve to make an offhand joke about Anita Hill endorsing him while he’s facing sexual harassment allegations from at least four women. That’s how seriously he takes the crime of sexual harassment. 

I’m thinking about how Joe Paterno can hold his head up, cuddle his wife and wave at the TV cameras with the backing of Penn State’s student body of football stans. That’s how seriously he takes his role in this mess. The same goes for the witnesses–including assistant coach Mike McQueary–who didn’t call the police immediately. 

Patriarchy eats its women and children and criminally cripples its men. 

This shit has got to change.