Sex Scandals and Our Sports

By Kristy Campbell


Driving home from football practice last night with my 11-year old son was a moment to which I’d given careful consideration. I had similar moments throughout the years with his older sister when I’ve had to deliver news that kills a little bit of childhood innocence but I knew I had to talk to my son since the story is every where in the news. Penn State. Joe Paterno. Sex scandal.



I’ve hammered home the “inappropriate touching” message to my two girls, but I realized that my past dialogues with the three boys were pretty much a “don’t let anyone touch you there - OK? OK.” kind of message. Today, I needed to be stronger in my message to oldest son.


This story hits close to home since my brother went to Penn State. Our family, like every other Penn State family, has always had a soft-spot for Joe Pa. He is an American football icon, and we were proud to have been part of the Penn State legacy. However, as the news has poured out of State College, Pennsylvania, this past week, the tarnishing has begun. It has made us wonder just how far people will go to preserve an image…an image of a coach, an image of a winning football team, an image of a university.


After the opening questions about how practice went, I launched in…“Hey buddy, you are going to hear some stories about Joe Paterno stepping down as coach,” I said knowing I’d just opened the floodgates.


“Why? I thought he said he’d never retire?” he asked as he opened his bag of sunflower seeds.


“Well, you are also going to hear things like sexual scandal, sexual abuse. Have you heard those words before?”


He started spitting out his sunflower seeds and I could see the nervousness in the tightening of his lips. “Nope.


“There were some incidents that happened with an older coach and some younger boys that involved sexual activity and inappropriate touching,” I said treading lightly.


“Joe Pa did that?”
“No, honey. One of his coaches. But he knew about it and didn’t do anything so it makes him as responsible. You know you can’t watch somehow hurt someone else and not do anything. Seeing the wrong-doing involves you, don’t you think?”


“Yeah. What did he do exactly?” he said still spitting sunflower seeds.


I paused. Do I tell him? Do I not tell him? Yes? No? Um… “Have you ever heard of oral sex?” I asked trying not to drive off of the road.


“No but I know what sex is and oral means your mouth,” he said looking at me in a kind of interested yet horrified way.


“Exactly. Oral sex is when you put your mouth on someone’s private areas or they put their mouth on yours. You can’t make a baby that way, but it is still sex. This older coach was putting his mouth on one of the younger boy's private areas, and that is what is called sexual abuse,” I said trying to be direct, factual, and not one bit hysterical.


Kristy Campbell

Thanks @jenmason7 and @mezzomarta for your positive comments! It is so hard to have these conversations, but with the world our kids live in, it seems more and more important that we are talking to our kids about the tough stuff.


thank you for your words. I've been struggling with how to talk to my 9 and 7 year old sons about this. My father went to PSU and I grew up going to games. It's the only team I follow. As a victim of inappropriate touching by a school photographer when i was in kindergarten, this is especially important for me to address with my boys. You gave me a beautiful, appropriate example to follow. thank you! MnKMama


Thank you so much for this article. It is so hard to have these conversations, but it is so important to have them. I think you did a terrific job. Thank you for the great example and the gentle nudge in the right direction.


look to HLN and read the 23 page indictment of Sandusky. It shows the manipulation and deceit he designed to entrap his unsuspecting victims. This maggot needs to face a firing squad for what he did to very young innocent boys. I am outraged at his and any pedophile's behaviours. They do not need to take up any more space on our planet.