About eleven years ago, African-Americans, including football players, at Penn State University received a series of hate letters, and some students say that legendary coach Joe Paterno, allegedly, did nothing to address the problem.
The hate mail scandal, some of which eventually led to death threats, provoked fear on the university’s campus.
Incidentally, in the same fall of 2000, a Penn State janitor James Calhoun is said to have observed former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky performing oral sex on a boy, described as between the ages of 11 and 13, in the showers of the Lasch Football Building. The boy has been identified as Victim 8 in a grand jury report.
Lakeshia Wolf, 2001 Penn State graduate of communications and sociology, received five letters.
“The letters said things like, ‘I’m going to kill you, we ought to kill you, black slut,’” Wolf told theGrio.
“And every letter I received made a reference to the football team because the school was in a losing season and there was a black quarterback [Rachard Casey] at the time.”
Casey, former Penn State quarterback, said he had also received hate mail.
Wolf went on to say that the letters said something along the lines of “your black ni**er boy can’t win a football game….this is a white school and a white state and a white country and we don’t need you here unless you’re winning football games.”
After reporting the letters to the university police, speaking with the Vice Provost for Educational Equity, W. Terrel Jones, and meeting with Paterno, Wolf remained frustrated at what she perceived as a general nonchalance from the university administration.
She along with the Black Caucus student group — for which she was president — and Penn State student advisor Brian Favors said the meetings with Paterno had only resulted in him claiming that he is not aware of the threats and did not have the power to intervene.
Assata Richards, former Penn State student and on-campus activist, was one of the students who met with Paterno.
“We asked him to talk to the players because we were concerned about their safety,” she said.
“And he said in that meeting that he would never do anything to put the university in a bad light. So then we said, ‘Then you are choosing the university over student lives.’”
Favors told theGrio, “People saw Paterno more than a football coach, when he was in fact just a football coach who just wanted to win games.”
And according to Favors and Wolf, winning football games meant covering up scandals.
“Sex scandals and death threats to football players, this could cost them millions and millions of dollars in recruiting for black football players,” Favors said.
“Think about black football players in high school learning that if they go to Penn State and lose games, they may start receiving death threats…it’s about public relations.”
And for Favors, blowing the whistle on what was happening to black students at Penn State had cost him his job. He said he went from receiving an award for Outstanding Service to Students to facing pressure from the school faculty and administration that he would not be invited back to the school if he continued to support the activism of the Black Caucus student members.
After receiving his final paycheck, Favors along with Wolf left the school — bound for Pittsburgh — with escorts from the New Black Panther Party for security.
Former State Attorney General Mike Fisher, with the help of the FBI investigated the case. Favors said he and Wolf want to get it re-opened.
He said that he and many of the black students were literally traumatized and did not receive any closure.
Wolf never even attended her graduation ceremony — she was busy worrying about her life. Her entire senior year (for most of which she had worn a bullet proof vest) had been nothing short of a civil rights case in itself. Her first hate letter came in October 2000 after she had published an editorial in the student newspaper about the misrepresentation of blacks in the media.
But, it was the fifth and final letter that really shook her up.
“I was totally floored and it was the worst of the worst,” she told theGrio. “They talked about seeing me on campus and wanting to kill me and there would be a bomb at the graduation and said that we should search the mountains nearby and we’d find a dead body.”
A few days after that letter, a body was, indeed, found, about 20 miles from the university campus. The victim was a black male who had died from a gunshot wound.
Everything that Wolf and other black Penn State students went through have led her to believe that the current sex charges against Sandusky are no surprise.
She thinks a web of cover-ups culminating in a grand conspiracy protected Sandusky from facing up to charges of sexually molesting underage boys.
“It was made very clear to me that Penn State is willing to cover up anything…they want to protect the image of the blue and white,” she said.
“They are probably scrambling now to hide any evidence that would incriminate the school, the same way they had done for me.”