Jerry Sandusky — once a name tied to victory and prestige is now tarnished by allegations, linked to broken trust, misplaced innocence and other burdens victims of sexual abuse carry.
However, the former Penn State coach is not the first to be accused of using his power and position in sports to lure and molest young boys. There is a case that is eerily similar, but arguably did not garner as much national attention.
Long-time Red Sox clubhouse manager, Donald Fitzpatrick molested and abused nearly a dozen African-American boys between 1971 and 1991. Those closest to the case say few know about Fitzpatrick’s crimes because he abused “poor black boys”, the kind of children considered society’s “throwaways.”
Leeronnie Ogletree was one of those boys. When he was 10 years old he was like all the other kids in his Winter Haven, Florida neighborhood, until the day he says he met Fitzpatrick. The 48-year-old says the relationship was harmless at first. It was an opportunity for him to meet his baseball idols and get unlimited access to the ballpark when the Red Sox would come to Florida for training camp, but the trade-off eventually became criminal.
Ogletree says he was paid to make drug runs for major league players and claims team managers told him his job was” to make sure the stars didn’t get caught in the hood with illegal substances.”
Exposure to drugs was just the beginning. ”[Fitzpatrick] was a monster and made me take my clothes off…the sentence I really got was a life sentence because of what I went through with the Red Sox.”
Benjamin Crump the attorney who represented Ogletree told the Huffington Post: “The one thing that I do think is not similar to the Penn State situation is that with the Boston Red Sox case, they had 11 kids and they were all black, almost as if they wouldn’t let this happen to little white boys.”
Ogletree shrouded his abuse in secrecy until 2000. When he told his sister about his eight year molestation, his nephew also revealed Fitzpatrick molested him as well. “They knew he [Fitzpatrick] was hurting us. The managers were hiring black kids like they were feeding us to him,” Ogletree said.
“I sit back and think how I would talk to Ted Williams, one of the great hitters of the time, and he knew that we would be in the shower with Fitzpatrick. They all knew and didn’t do anything.”
Fitzpatrick admitted guilt in court in 2002 and accepted a plea deal. He served no time, dying in 2005.
Child psychologists say the fact African-American men came forward to report a sex abuse scandal is groundbreaking and took extra courage because of stigmas within the black community.
“There is a disparity of crimes committed between black and non-blacks. Most of the time when we go to our parents they don’t want to believe it especially when it’s a person in authority,” says child psychologist, Dr. Angela Brinson.
“There is a link between power and pedophilia. You may lose your scholarship if you tell what happened. Even in church, you can’t report the pastor is molesting you if he’s the one paying the bills.”
Dr. Brinson adds it is also difficult for black men to report sexual abuse because it goes against everything black manhood is about, the notion that black men are not suppose to be vulnerable. She says that leads to silent rage and forces a victim down a path of destructive behavior.
“I constantly see it in my practice. That boy that is acting out in class and home is acting out for a reason. Often times people brush it off and say he’s troubled, but if you look below the surface there is usually signs he’s been abused and knows no other way to deal with it,” says Brinson.
Ogletree has lived a life filled with addictions and several stays in jail. He says it could be easy to be a victim for the rest of his life and let past hurt dictate his future; however, he rather restore relationships with his four children, and tell his story to protect others.”
When I got out of prison in June, I started getting my story out and went to the games to protest. The ballpark is and has always been a breeding ground for predators.”
When asked about the next chapter in his life, Ogletree says the next chapter is filled with chapters of his own book. It’s called Major League Addiction.
“The book is about me. I fell in love with the game, and I hid what happened to me to be around my heroes. The ballpark destroyed my life.”