Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Did ESPN magazine cross line on abuse?

Mike McQueary (left) with Joe Paterno in 2011.
Mike McQueary (left) with Joe Paterno in 2011. GENE PUSKAR / AP

Powerful story in ESPN the Magazine about "Big Red," the Penn State assistant whose account of a Jerry Sandusky sexual assault of a boy in a campus shower led to the biggest scandal in college football.

The article, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Don Van Natta Jr., describes Mike McQueary as 39, out of work, and broke. He lives in his parents' State College house, separated from his wife and daughter.

McQueary spoke briefly for the piece - he told of his absolute love for Joe Paterno. Those around him talked more. Van Natta talked to two players who related what happened at a meeting shortly after the news broke:

"As he told them what he had seen and heard in that locker room shower a decade ago, Big Red began to cry.

The players listened in silence, their heads down. "He said he had some regret that he didn't stop it. . .," says Patrick Flanagan, then a redshirt freshman receiver. Finally, McQueary confided in his players something he hoped would make them understand how he'd reacted at the time. He told them he could relate to the fear and helplessness felt by the boy in the shower because he too was sexually abused as a boy.

Reaction has been strong.

@JenniferRStorm: @DVNJr shame on you & @espn for publicity exposing #mcqueary as a victim of child #sexualassault without his consent or permission.

That does assume that Van Natta didn't talk with McQueary on background about what happened and what he told the 12 players in attendance at the Nov. 9, 2011, closed-door meeting of the team's receivers. But the story doesn't say the reporter ran this by the man.

Deep in the story, there's this line: "McQueary would not confirm to The Mag that he was in fact abused as a boy or offer any comment on what he told the players."

Did ESPN make a judgment that the news value of reporting what McQueary told his players - its potential relevance to the case - was greater than the protection journalists typically give victims of sexual assault? If so, maybe it would have been better off explaining its decision.

Daniel Rubin Inquirer Columnist
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