One man's Penn State protest

November, 12, 2011
11/12/11
11:56
AM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- With a thick piece of black duct tape covering the Penn State logo on his baseball cap and a pair of signs criticizing the university, Jon Matko knew he wasn’t going to make many friends at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. But he didn’t care.

The 2000 Penn State graduate and father of a 4-year-old boy said he felt he had to do something to remind Nittany Lions fans about the victims in the school’s sexual abuse scandal. So while kids posed for pictures next to the Joe Paterno statue and others did the “We Are” chant before Saturday’s game, Matko stood on a street just outside the stadium quietly holding his signs and accepting the abuse that came with it.

Read one: The kids are what this is all about. Not wins or losses. Put the kids first. Don’t be fooled. They all knew. Tom Bradley and all must go.

“When I think of that moment in that shower, I feel rage,” Matko said. “All week I felt I had to do something. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, I had to be here for those kids. I can’t stop thinking about those kids.”

Matko, who lives in Pittsburgh, thought the university should have canceled the game and the rest of the season. He knows the importance of the games to university revenue and how canceling wouldn’t be fair to the players who had nothing to do with the scandal, but he said he felt Saturday was too soon to play.

“It’s the right thing,” he said. “It’s not about Joe. It’s about the kids.”

Matko’s other sign featured the famous Albert Einstein quote: “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

When he arrived at Beaver Stadium on Saturday morning, Matko was shocked to find himself alone. He thought he would show up at Beaver Stadium and join other protestors. But he couldn’t find any.

“It’s shocking that I’m the only one here,” he said. “It’s shocking and disturbing.”

But a few feet away, a group of women passed out bookmarks that outlined telltale signs to look for indicating that a child may have been abused, as well as phone numbers for the national and Pennsylvania child abuse hotlines.

Matko, for the most part, was ignored. A few fans offered a colorful word or two of "venom," as he called it. But that was about it.

"I know these people better than they know themselves," he said. " I used to be one of them. I was brainwashed, too. Ten years ago I probably would have thought somebody holding a sign like this was a fool. But I’ve grown up. I have a family now. I don’t subscribe to this any longer. Instead, I think it's important to stand up for what you believe. And I believe this university needs to start doing the right thing."

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