President Obama says the stiff NCAA sanctions levied against Penn State’s football program is “appropriate” following the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal and the controversy surrounding its former head coach Joe Paterno.
Obama, appearing on a Columbus, Ohio, sports talk radio show aired Thursday, was asked whether “the punishment fit the crime.”
“I think it does,” Obama said. “I mean, I have been a big admirer of Penn State football. Obviously Joe Paterno was a great football coach. But there are some things that are just more important than sports. And making sure our kids are safe is more important than sports.”
In addition to stripping Penn State of four years worth of wins and a ban on post-season play until 2016, the college is also facing $60 million in fines and scholarship reductions.
The disciplinary action was “appropriate to send that message that we just have bigger priorities,” the president said.
“We’ve just got to make sure that we are always looking after our kids,” he continued. “And we have an affirmative responsibility to make sure that we’re preventing predators from taking advantage of them.”
Sandusky, a former assistant coach on Paterno’s staff, was convicted in June of 45 counts of molesting underage boys, beginning in 1994. Much of the abuse occurred on the school’s campus and Paterno and other top officials were accused of ignoring the accusations against Sandusky to protect the reputation of the school and the football team.
Outside the Penn State scandal, Mike Ricordati and Scott Torgerson of WBNS’ “The Common Man and the Torg” decided to keep the mood light and away from politics. Among other subjects the radio hosts asked the president — a devout Chicago White Sox fan — how he divided his loyalties from that other Windy City baseball team, the Cubs.
“There are two kinds of Sox fans: There are folks who just root for the Sox, and then there are folks who hate the Cubs, and I am in the former category.”
The president specified that he was “not a Cubs hater.”
“I will say Wrigleys is a great park. There’s nothing better on a summer afternoon than having a beer and watching a game at Wrigleys,” he said.
The president also lauded the American Olympics team in the eight minute interview, telling the hosts he’s been calling the athletes to congratulate them on their wins in London. On Thursday he told crowds at campaign events in Florida and Virginia that he had spoken to swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnastics fans’ sweetheart Gabby Douglas.
Obama has made a habit of reaching out to local broadcast stations in recent months, with several in battleground states.