Home Featured Joe Paterno, Penn State, and the Hypocrisy of the Stop Snitching Mentality

Joe Paterno, Penn State, and the Hypocrisy of the Stop Snitching Mentality


The Penn State scandal has been the talk of the nation and the sports world. We can all agree that the situation is pretty f*cked up. What Jerry Sandusky did to those poor kids, and the entire nature of the cover up, has no type of relatability to me or any other decent human being. It’s disgusting, alarming, saddening, and atrocious! No one wants to see kids suffer and feels like they would have stepped up if they were in Paterno’s position. I feel like Joe Pa should’ve done more, especially since he created the facade that Penn State does things the right way all the time. You have to practice what you preach. A man with great power neglected an even greater responsibility to the University, to those boys who got raped, and to every parent that trusted in him to be the role model and leader that their children should have in their lives as they committed to playing football for them.Unfortunately, those who remain silent in the face of obvious illegal and moral crimes are not alone.

Every day in neighborhoods across America, people are murdered at an alarming rate. Chicago is only one example of how the gunplay in our inner cities has become ridiculous. Growing up in New York City, I had the good fortune of living in a cool neighborhood, while still having a foot in those “rough areas.” I went to school with people who lived in and around the PJs and other hoods where real shit went down. We had our fair share too, but it was few and far between (plus I kept my non-built-for-jail ass away from trouble). Although I wasn’t a drug dealer or criminal, we knew who the d-boys were and we were cool with them. We also knew the law of “no snitching.” If something went down, you didn’t say anything. Period. Even as kids we were shunned for being tattle tellers (sidebar: I definitely thought the phrase was “tattle tail” because of the NYC accent. When I found out the correct phrase it blew my mind). This is the mentality we grow up with, especially in the black community. Honestly we rarely thought different about it, unless the affected parties were our family or close friends.

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So, why do we chastise people in our communities for keeping their mouths closed after witnessing a murder when that’s the code they were taught since birth? To come from a culture that shuns one another for cooperating with police, but destroy another’s character for “not using his authority to save young children” is hypocritical. We love to police the lives of celebrities but we fail to apply this same morality to our own daily lives. What’s the difference?


To give you a brief recap of the situation at hand: On June 22, 2012, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse. Sandusky faces a minimum sentence of at least 60 years – at his age, effectively a life sentence. The discovery of Sandusky’s crimes triggered a criminal investigation by the local United States Attorney, as well as a Department of Education probe into Penn State’s response. As of July 2012, both investigations are ongoing. However, the report of an independent investigation conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh and his firm stated that Spanier and Paterno, along with athletic director Tim Curley and school vice president Gary Schultz, knew about allegations of child abuse on Sandusky’s part as early as 1998, and they were complicit in failing to disclose them. In so doing, Freeh said, the four men “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”

Paterno did inform his superiors of Sandusky’s discretions but he didn’t divulge all knowledge of the information. Instead, they all swept it under the rug and tried to wish these problems away to the cornfield. Many more rapes could’ve been prevented and the monster Sandusky could’ve been dealt with 14 years ago, but that didn’t occur. Sandusky is the true villain in this story, yet his accomplices (mainly Paterno) are the ones we place our focus and aim our venom. The ones who turned a blind eye to young boys who would be forever scarred by these acts. Acts that are so sickening and appalling that every parent, sibling, and human being with decency wanted to see justice served. The harsh reality is that “this type of sh*t happens every day.”

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We hear about the “evils” of wall street and greedy corporations who ball out  – In 2010, Goldman Sachs bankers received $15.3 billion in bonuses alone – while the American people remain jobless. Dominique Strauss Kahn getting his Hue Heffner bond impersonation poppin off. We hear of bounty scandals and spygate in the NFL. Why do you think that on some job applications, they ask if you’ve ever stolen from a company “other than office supplies”? They account for it because everyone does it, and it’s accepted in the culture. All these examples have one thing in common: people in positions of power who abuse their authority and/or keep quiet while these actions go down. There is outrage from the general public but in some cases we don’t seem to care as much. We don’t care as much because, truthfully, we can relate to the actions. It doesn’t make you a horrible person to admit if there was a way to make side money that bent certain rules, you would consider it, and wouldn’t be too mad at those who did. It doesn’t mean that you would do it, but in our desensitized society, certain transgressions are typically received with a kanye shrug.

It’s the same way our culture considers it taboo to snitch. We hold talks and campaign about black on black crime, the murder rate, and other detrimental factors that drag our community down, but as a people we are inherently flawed by the hypocrisy of “stop snitching.” It goes beyond the schoolyard. It’s deeper than just keeping your mouth shut against all odds. We pick and choose in our own lives when it’s right to speak up, yet chastise others when we believe that the choice is clear. Why isn’t it clearer when Ricky gets gunned down in the alley? Why isn’t it clearer when Big John is pushing crack into our hoods, and getting the lil kids to do his footwork? In NYC the MTA has a saying “if you see something, say something”. To me, we only say something when it involves the “famous” & doesn’t impact our daily lives.

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I just wish we had the same energy and vitriol dedicated to those who keep their mouths shut as our communities kill itself off.

Admin Note:  Just a heads up that the next SBM NYC event is scheduled for Friday, July 27th at Empire Room in Manhattan. More details to come later this week.


  1. Great post. I never really looked at the situation from that point of view.

    I will mention that the difference between the officials at Penn state not snitching and people in “the neighborhood not snitching” is the protection factor. If any of those faculty members would have told on Joe paterno or pushed the issue they would be safe. If they told the media and civilians would paint them as Heros.

    When you snitch on your local gunman/ drug dealer you could be putting your own safety and the safety of your family at risk.

    If the cops want civilians ( not criminals trying to save their own butts) to give up information, they have to find a safe and comfortable way for them to do so without fear.

    Of course there’s the crime stoppers hot line, but in Certain situations you might have to come in court and testify against the criminal, and that’s where things take a turn.

    1. Fair point, even in Boston a witness testified, dude beat the caseanyway and he got stabbed in broad daylight Downtown…now how many people you think saw that, and how many people you think is gonna SAY they saw it. Penn State had nothing to be afraid of except “bad press” and thats exactly what they got anyway. Now they have a tarnished rep, sponsors who wont go near them and i assume a bunch of civil suits

      1. This is the thing about bad press — no matter what was done Penn State would have been crucified and deemed wrong. Bad press was going to come out of it either way. The people in that situation did what they thought was best at the time and it's no one's right to judge. Do people have personal opinions on the matter? yeah, of course. Personal opinions are irrelevent though and don't dictate what is and isn't wrong. Bad press is exceptionally damaging and majority of it consists of personal opinions. People have no idea what position those bystanders were in to be dragging them through the mud for what they did and didn't do. This is hindsight.

        1. We have a justice system for a reason. The facts will decide the appropriate consequences. Speculation and opinion spirals out-of-control without any regard for what is and isn't true. That is entirely too impactful on too many lives and has too many long-term effects to be willy nilly disparaging people in the public eye. I understand the anger. I don't condone judging. Bad press is knee jerk public judgement on situations that have nothing to do with the general public.

        2. The thing with bad press is; it gets worse when you build up dirt. If Penn state officials had reported this crime to the police and said they would fully cooperate with the authorities, the press would have gone easy on them. The press was harder on them now because the board knew what was going on and didn’t speak up, they covered it up. (I’m talking about the people that Joe Pa reported the incident to)

        3. The point about bad press is that it's speculative public opinion.

          Hindsight reaction on what should and shouldn't have been done. That's not to say I wouldn't agree with certain opinions of coulda, woulda, shoulda. The point of the matter is, either way Penn State would catch heat. People did what they thought was best and after the fact you can attack those decisions all you want. All you're doing is hurting the people who made them and that is completely undeserved. "The press would have gone easy on them…"

          Completely arrogant. It isn't the press' position to dish out consequences.

        4. ……or punishments. or judgements.

          ……or completely ruin people's lives because they personally disagree with their decisions.

        5. Youre just joking about criticism of PSU officials being undeserved right??? I get your whole act of always playing devil's advocate, but how can you defend those cowards. The info from the Free Report or whatever its called cleary lays out evidence that Joe Paterno and countless other officials knew about the initial molestation, and did nothing! They allowed Sandusky to retire honorably with ceremony and all as well as allowed him to still have and office at Penn State where he continued to bring little boys from his charity organization to practices and games. At least 8 more boys were raped after the initial case of molestation was reported. I dont know you personally but you sound kind of laim trying to stick up for adults who turned a blind eye to kids i repeat kids being raped by a grown man. There is no excuse for that stuff what so ever.

        6. This isnt a case of woulda coulda shoulda… when kids are being systematically molested by an employee of your school and you turn a blind eye that speaks volumes to your true character, and to defend their actions is pathetic at best.

          Sorry for the rant, but i had to get that off my chest, You sound like those students who marched in support of Paterno. Just ridiculous!!!

          *excuse any typos*

        7. I'm not playing devil's advocate. I'm intentionally ignoring stuff that pisses me off. I would not sleep, I would not stop thinking about it, I would not relax, I would not sit in my home speculating. I would be on some other sh*t. It's the equivalent to my mind of having someone corner you and repeatedly mush the hell out of you and you can't do anything about it. I sound calm. I'm simply….avoiding the inherent instinct to kill. Therefore….*skips details* *takes deep breaths*

          Rationalize how irrelevent public opinion is on hindsight decisions. EVERYTHING is wrong in hindsight, doesn't mean you ruin lives over it.

          Seems like a completely unemotional thing to say but it just happens to be a fact. It's more calming to discuss what's often overlooked in such matters. Therefore, general and factual statement about public opinion.

        8. and I'm also going to ignore your personal attack on my character when my comments downthread clearly state my opinions on the proper way to handle such situations — from all perspectives. Because quite frankly, I would have chin-checked you and would not have any regard for stopping. but this is the internet. and you can say whatever you wanna say. Which is why the first time this case was brought up, I said…."I'm not gonna judge that man". *bakes some cookies while focusing on sugar, spice and everything nice*

          81 people had a problem with it.

          Because they judged me. Public opinion is flimsy and should be irrelevent. That isn't a devil's advocate thing to say; it's a perspective coming from experience.

        9. Lets talk about what YOU'VE done when confronted with child molestation.

          How did YOU weigh the pros and cons when in that situation?

      2. Tristian they are also losing a lot of money due to those civil suits and loss of sponsers and drop in student apps.

        1. Listen schools go through bad press. Theirs is so bad because they hide the situation for so long. I’m referring to the board who Joe Pa reported the incident too. If they had a documented investigation and said they found noting then ok, but they did nothing, and on top of that they didn’t even give the parents an incident report. Yes it’s the schools responsibility to handle those types of incidents in a certain manner, when they don’t, they suffer consequences, (i.e.: civil suits lost of students, money). Not saying they wouldn’t have suffered bad press if they had took control of the situation on the first go round; I just think it wouldn’t have been so bad and detrimental to their pockets.

        2. What I wanna know is how your child was molested and raped and your maternal/paternal intinct didn't catch it. while everyone is up in arms about what the University did and didn't do.

          How many times did Paterno report it to higher ups?

        3. …..lol. actually, I don't care enough to lead that answer into my point. It's whatever to me but to each his own how they think and feel about it.

  2. Smilez you make a valid point about most people in the hood fearing for their lives and that being one of the primary reasons for not snitching. Typically though, white folks will tell on each other all day to protect their own necks. I've seen them do it in the work place and it's very common in Corporate America. One reason why we don't snitch is because of: "the non-snitching code" that we strictly adhere to in the black community. The other reason is because we as a people feel like we've already been through a lot racially, and we are still down-trodden. I know people who have said, "I'll never tell on a sista or brotha because we already go through enough at the hands of white folks." "We don't need to bring each other down and become our own worst enemies." It's much like the mentality that robbers have of not robbing black folks, but only robbing white folks. Because they aren't trying to cause more problems for their own people. Many times as black people we actually do look out for each other before we look out for other people because we feel like all we got is each other. We feel like our survival as a black race depends on helping each other out and not bringing each other down and causing undue hardship on each other by always robbing and stealing from each other and snitching on each other and getting each other in trouble. I believe this is one thing that is "a black thing." We have more of a loyalty to our own in that respect than white people. At the end of the day many white people are about CYA ie Cover Your Ass. Many of them I've associated with have passed this message on to me in business situations. They could give a damn about anybody else and there is no loyalty to their own people or anybody else. They are strictly looking out for themselves.
    As far as the Penn State case, a large portion of Penn State's funds to keep it going largely come from the football program. This is also why some people want to attend Penn State and try for scholarships with them, to play football with the Nittany Lions. My dad went there and played football for them. Remember Penn State is one of the Big Ten. They also won 2 national championships under Joe Paterno as coach.
    Yes Joe was wrong for what he did, but he had a whole lot more than I think people realize at stake to lose if he went public with the sexual abuse. Who knows they may have threatened his life and his family's if he went public. I'm almost positive though he would've surely lost his career, been black-balled, and possibly had a lot of financial problems unless he had millions of dollars in savings. At that time he probably wasn't old enough to collect retirement or a pension or Soc Security. I don't know his age, but I doubt that was a viable option for him. It would've more than likely changed his lifestyle drastically for the worse. Plus the fact that I'm sure he has a wife and children to think about, not just himself. So to some degree it wasn't much different than regular folks in the hood not snitching. Plus how do we know that he didn't have a certain level of loyalty to the guys he worked with for so long. Sandusky was probably very close friends with him. They worked very closely together for a number of years.
    Lastly it would've been his word against Sandusky's if he came out about all of this as soon as he knew about it. He probably figured it would be pointless for him to expose him if he couldn't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. He would've had his entire life turned upside down and lost everything for nothing. Again not saying that I agree with him not saying anything for so long, but I do understand why he did what he did considering the potential losses he could've incurred. ijs

    1. True. But this wasn’t like a one time incident. Kids were bein touched for years. Plenty of ppl in the establishment knew what was going on, so I won’t put all the blame on Joe Pa. Also when you work with children aren’t there laws that protect your job if you have to report a case like this.

      I will also note that at one point Joe Pa did report the incident, to his superiors, but at some point it has to hurt or bother you that children are being touched right under your own nose, and you know about it.

      1. I know a lot of people were mad that he was fired behind this, (in his later years) but he became guilty by association. Plus let’s be honest if that was anyone one of our children and we left them in the hands of people who were suppose to train and nurture them, and those people were harming them, we would be pissed. I feel like there is a certain protocol that you use with dealing with children, I know at school or camp if something like this is reported, the parents are suppose to be notified, even if it’s just alleged.

        1. Smilez if you had a six figure income, a six figure lifestyle, and six figure bills and a spouse and children that could be jepordized over this you would tell just to clear your conscience?
          Like you stated in a previous comment, he did tell his supervisor at one point and nothing was done. By not saying anything I'm sure he did what he thought was best. I mean if he had said something and went public with this and went to the news do you not think Penn wouldn't cover this up and protect their rep, school and football program? Not only that, he would've probably lost his job and everything else. They may have black-balled him from getting another coaching job anywhere near PA and they would've probably made his and his family's lives hell.

        2. This is almost like trying to get out of a gang. You can't just announce that your leaving the gang one day because u get saved in church and become born again and no longer want to kill people and gangbang. They don't just let u walk away that easiy. If u do walk away u will have serious consequences to pay. It's more serious than a lot of people realize. Trust me he couldn't realistically just go public with this and not suffer any serious repurcussions. And then there is the question of who would believe him and how he would prove it. It's just not that cut and dry Smilez. Again not condoning him not ever saying anything and letting it ride, but at the same time you have to be very careful and mindful of the potential backfire from the situation.

    2. @Bree, I’m not referring to just Joe Pa. I know he has a lot to lose. I’m talking about the school itself, the people he reported the incident to. They were given important information and they fumbled. Of course Joe Pa could put his job in jeopardy from telling. But the people he told who had the power to have a full blown investigation and cover their own tails and didn’t do their job. As a school when you run a program for children/minors it is you responsibility to keep them safe. ( again not Joe Pa as an individual , but the school board/ head of the program)

    3. I’m not expecting Joe Pa to play super man and save the day and risk his career. He told his supervisors like he was suppose to. My problem is that the supervisors didn’t go full force an investigate the situation( cops, Cps,). At the end of the day of when a school tries to cover up something this big for so long and get caught then they have to face the consequences. When a school decides to run a program for children, they are suppose to keep them safe by all means possible. Penn State dropped the ball on this one.

      And let’s be real if you were one of the children’s parents who child was touch you would want the whole staff fired. Even if you knew that Joe Pa really had no control over what was going on.

      1. again Smilez at the end of the day it's about money and reputation. Not saying it was right. I completely agree with you. The right thing would've been to put a stop to this early on and not let it get this far. However, that would've meant Penn States rep being tarnished and them losing some funding and losing potential students. The entire staff probably knew and worked together to cover it up for the greater good of the school. It's sad but they could give a damn about those students. The school as a business organization was looking out for it's own interest. Very wrong but thats what it probably was. It's a cold cruel "dog eat dog" world out here.

  3. The whole "stop snitchin" thing was initially a "drug" thing….if you and your people are doing dirt together….then you dont give your man up period…….or…….if you are in the underworld in other ways, like pimping, runnin' numbers, gangbanging, trafficking drugs or what have you, then you dont give up anybody, because you are doing dirt too….Its about hypocrisy and that fact that the cat you were doing dirt with is most likely your friend anyway. Stop snitching doesnt even entail (or the intent was to not entail) people who arent involved in illegal activities themselves (squares/civilians) Basically, the name got bastardized…and further, it was more of an unwritten thing.

    1. JayMatic I agree. The "stop Snitching" line in 2012 got basterdized to what it is today. You keep quiet if yall both doin dirt. Now its more of if you see something, DONT say something. That was the perspective I'm rolling with. Good looks on dropping that perspective.
      My recent post #BeTheBetter Fitness Log: Entry 7

    2. Good point JayMatic. It's funny because now it seems like more criminals snitched than civilians, when it should be the other way around (Civilians reporting crimes and criminals sticking to the code)

    3. JAYmatic: "The whole "stop snitchin" thing was initially a "drug" thing….if you and your people are doing dirt together….then you dont give your man up period"

      That's the way I always thought it was. Kind of an "honor among thieves" kind of thing. I don't know how that concept got spread to the community at large.

  4. Streetz, there's a lot of substance here. like *a lot*. I do have to say though, the happy hour line at the bottom turned me off.

    on Paterno: I do believe when a person brings light to a situation to higher-ups and doing so threatens their own well-being, it's the responsibility of the higher-ups to act appropriately. It's not that man's job to be a private investigator or vigilante. I can understand not wanting to get too involved in a precarious position — the people he told should've acted on it.

    People with power: You can either delegate solutions or you can BE the solution when a situation is brought to light, BUT…those on the top tier have top tier responsibilities. They have to think about largescale, long-term impacts on entities — not the few people.

    1. In communities: how to be involved is a circumstantial, personal decision but intentionally avoiding or turning a blind eye to the human condition is absolutely inexcusable. Solutions to crimes to the benefit of victims *and* criminals are the responsibility of those aware of them happening.

      Personally: as someone vying for a position of power I chose to be the solution and that isn't for the faint of heart; it calls for embodying the suffering of others while enduring the judgement of those who will never truly care. I've altruistically put myself in harms way — physical danger — for the sake of people, ESPECIALLY children. No police. I took it upon myself to be personally responsible for their well-being and it's a time in my life I don't emotionally acknowledge and choose to forget.

      As far as the general rest of it? Most people SEE crimes; I FEEL them. There are some things in life that evoke lethal responses in me and this is not figurative speech. Specific lines crossed…I will kill you. It's no longer an emotional response to threatening stimuli, at the most available opportunity it's your life. Touch MY child? I'm so pissed off I look harmless.

  5. Snitching to me only implies if your hands arent clean in the situation. You got caught, he didnt so u bring him with you for a deal is cowardice. Anyone who feels otherwise been listening to too much Cam’ron. Also as with alot of things there are levels, some things you mind your damn business about others as a decent human being you speak up. Theres a difference between calling to kill a house party and reporting gunshots.

  6. Interesting points and it is hypocritical. Folks are good for talking out of both sides of their mouth tho and only seeking pity or cause when it directly affects them. We live in a self-centered, egotistical, narcissistic society. If you do or do not fall in that grouping you can feel however you want to feel about it – but if you maintain a blog, Facebook, Twitter or basically exist on-line, guess what? lol It's just interesting how folks can be so callous or generally apathetic towards all causes/effects/actions that don't impact them directly, yet then wonder why folks refuse to get up in arms about their own causes. The Internet is a microcosm of this phenomenon. You can observe people "going in" on others all day long, then when something goes wrong in their own lives they turn to these same mediums for pity – and are often greeted with the same vitriol they espoused only days/weeks/months before. It's funny in a sad kind of way.

    As you said, there's no excuse for sitting on the sidelines while you knowingly witness wrong-doing but as you also said, it happens every day, b. To a degree, in our society/generations, we almost expect wrong doing by those in power. Thus making what could have been a minor issue systemic to the culture. However, people in power abusing their power is arguably as old as mankind itself.

  7. The public's opinion is influential in long-lasting effects when the public's opinion is speculative, personal opinion. Your opinion on my decision when I'm considering something as large as the reputation of an entire city and University is irrelevent to me in my decision-making process. I do what I think is best for the University, the cards fall where they may in the long-term. If the star ball player rapes my daughter she tells me and there's hell to pay. I don't drag the University or it's officials or its reputation or its staff to hell for a crime they didn't commit. The perpetrator alone is dealt with.

    1. In 8th grade there was a lesbian P.E. teacher. I thought she was a pedophile by her body type and the way she stood in the locker room. I called her on it as well as every action and word and look I ever saw her give until there was concrete evidence she WAS a lesbian and she WAS doing innapropriate things with underage females. Even though the staff sorta saw what I did no one acted on it because they were only allegations. When the evidence came in it was immediately acted on. No one disparaged the school, no one attacked the staff or principal, no one went off the deep end on what should and shouldn't have been done. It was handled discretely and she got what she deserved. People who turn a blind eye in their real lives should not be hopping on a bandwagon to make up for it. You aren't even outraged by crimes happening right outside your door step don't pretend like you care about a news story. Public opinion is flimsy and hyprocritical and is therefore deemed irrelevent. lol @ public opinion.


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