Accounts vary on how much flack he caught, but they agree that some Penn State fans did not appreciate John Matko's one-man protest outside the school's football stadium Saturday before the game with Nebraska.
The 34-year-old Penn State alum held two signs with messages such as "put abused kids first. ... Don't be fooled, they all knew. ... Honor the abused kids by cancelling this game and the season NOW."
He was referring, of course, to the scandal that has engulfed the university since it was revealed that a former assistant football coach has been charged with sexually abusing young boys for more than a decade — sometimes on campus — and that officials didn't alert police even though they had been told of incidents allegedly involving the coach.
The Washington Times says Matko was the target of many expletives. According to New Jersey's Star-Ledger, "we saw one passer-by spill beer on Matko's shoes, another try to knock the sign from his grip as he shouted in his ear, and a third walk past him and spit in his general direction ... while his back was turned." ESPN says that:
"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.' "
After the game, which was won by Nebraska 17-14, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he too thought it should have been canceled.
"I thought that this game gave us an opportunity to show that the situation going on is bigger than football," Pelini said.
"It's about education and putting things into perspective what the situation is all about. Hopefully, the fact that both teams sat up and prayed together put that in perspective a little bit."
As we reported Saturday, most of the more than 107,000 fans at the game seemed to get behind the message that the focus should be on the victims, not the effect on the school's football program.
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