Should ESPN be put on Probation for the Bernie Fine Cover-Up?

Updated: January 30, 2013

ESPN reminded us numerous times during the Jerry Sandusky scandal that justice must be served-for the abused children.  They were correct, and justice was served as coach Joe Paterno was fired in disgrace, Sandusky (barring a successful appeal) will die in jail, Penn State University administrators are facing criminal and civil trials, and the school and its football program were given severe penalties by the NCAA. 

But where is the justice for the children that former Syracuse University assistant men’s basketball coach Bernie Fine is alleged to have abused for decades?  (Please read the excellent reporting by Allen Berra at the Daily Beast, as I have, for the details concerning this topic)  Why didn’t ESPN notify authorities of an incriminating audiotape that an alleged victim legally recorded between himself and Mr. Fine’s wife and gave to the network in 2003?  ESPN stated they did nothing because there was no corroborating evidence, though logic would argue that the tape recording verified what the alleged victim was stating, that Bernie Fine had repeatedly molested him over several years. 

In the recording Mrs. Fine admitted she knew what was happening and suspected her husband had abused others as well.  It wasn’t until November 2012, as the Sandusky scandal was erupting, that ESPN revealed the existence of the tape, 8 and ½ years later, and soon after, Mr. Fine was fired.  At the same time ESPN personalities such as Colin Cowerd and Mike Golic were demanding justice for the children abused by Jerry Sandusky, they failed to hold their employer to the same standard. For the sake of the children, one might assume they would have behaved differently.

ESPN commentators, with few exceptions, agreed with the Freeh report and the NCAA when they concluded Penn State conspired to conceal Mr. Sandusky’s actions to protect the reputation of their football program, which trails only Notre Dame and Texas in revenue.  Did ESPN conceal the Bernie Fine scandal because they wanted to protect Syracuse University, the school whose excellent broadcast journalism department has graduated many who are current and former ESPN employees, from retired executive producer Dennis Menninger, a current faculty member of Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Communications, to on-air personalities Mike Tarico and Sean McDonough? 

The Syracuse men’s basketball team, a perennial national power, was sixth in revenue in 2010, trailing only Louisville, Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, and Ohio State.  The combined football and basketball revenue of SU was 37.5 million for the same year.   I suspect ESPN chose not to reveal their information to law enforcement in 2003 because of their loyalty to the school; if this is true, where is the justice in that?   

Perhaps fans who agree will consider getting their sports fix from the many alternatives that exist to ESPN on television, radio, and online.  Until we get more answers, let’s put ESPN on probation-for the children.

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