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American football: Obama calls sex scandal "heartbreaking"

12 november 2011, 17:27
0
Penn State students hold a candlelight vigil for abused victims in the Penn State scandal. ©AFP
Penn State students hold a candlelight vigil for abused victims in the Penn State scandal. ©AFP
President Barack Obama described the Penn State child sex abuse scandal as "heartbreaking" and said it should result in some serious "soul-searching" by all Americans, AFP reports.

"Obviously the whole situation is heartbreaking. And we think, first and foremost, of the victims of these alleged crimes," Obama told ESPN on Friday in his first public comments since the Penn State scandal broke.

"But I think it's a good time for us to do some soul searching -- every institution, not just Penn State -- about what our priorities are, and making sure that we understand that our first priority is protecting our kids."

Obama spoke to the American media on Friday night while attending a college basketball game between North Carolina and Michigan State aboard the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier.

"We all have a responsibility -- we can't leave it to a system, we can't leave it to somebody else. Each of us have to take it upon ourselves to make sure that our kids have the love and support and protection that they deserve," Obama said.

Penn State president Rod Erickson on Friday defended the school's decision not to cancel the rest of the football season amid outrage over the handling of the child abuse case.

"There was a lot of discussion about the season over the last week," Erickson told a news conference. "We believe in playing the game tomorrow and the two remaining games this season. We will go forward with those games."

Erickson noted that Saturday's final home game of the season would feature messages to raise awareness about the "tragedy" of the sexual abuse of children, following allegations brought against a former assistant coach to revered head coach Joe Paterno.

Penn State's final home is against Nebraska. They travel to Ohio State on November 19 and finish the regular season against Wisconsin on November 26.

There have been calls for the rest of Penn State's season to be cancelled in light of the fallout over the administration's handling of the sex-crime accusations against ex-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Critics of the administration said Sandusky's arrest, the firing of Paterno and the decision to place assistant coach Mike McQueary -- who witnessed some of the alleged abuse -- on indefinite administrative leave was not enough.

Erickson announced the decision to put McQueary on leave Friday, one day after the school said McQueary would not be present at Saturday's contest because he had been the target of unspecified threats.

"It became clear that coach McQueary could not function in this role under these circumstances," Erickson said.

McQueary told a grand jury he saw Sandusky allegedly sodomizing a boy in the shower in 2002 -- testimony that eventually led to charges being filed against the ex-coach.

Sandusky has been charged with sexually assaulting eight boys over a span of 15 years, some of them at Penn State facilities.

Senior vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley recently stepped down and have been charged with perjury and failing to notify authorities of suspected abuse. Like Sandusky, they have denied wrongdoing.

Family members of Sandusky's alleged victims were also speaking out, with the mother of one telling ABC's Good Morning America that she wants Sandusky "locked up".

"I want justice. I want him to be locked up," she said. "There is no help for someone that does this. He needs to be put away for a long time. The people that hid this, we have no respect for those people."

Erickson said security for Saturday's game would be stepped up and that Paterno was welcome to attend "as any member of the public would be".

Paterno, who is not expected to attend the game, has not answered questions or revealed details about how much he knew about Sandusky's actions.

It will be the first time since 1949 that Penn State's Nittany Lions have taken the field without Paterno in some role with the squad.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Texas have opened a probe into the possibility of filing additional charges against Sandusky.

The move comes following the release of grand jury testimony indicating Sandusky may have sexually assaulted one of his young victims when Penn State was in San Antonio for the 1999 Alamo Bowl game.

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