Penny M. Kessler : Coach’s vile postings cannot be dismissed

January 28, 2018 GMT

Regarding Hearst columnist Jeff Jacobs’ eye-opening essay (“Parental, player support for Wehmhoff doesn’t legitimize what he did,” Jan. 20): I am baffled by the reaction of Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven J. Adamowski to the vile social media posts of Dale Wehmhoff.

In what universe is it acceptable for a potential sports coach to post racist and sexist cartoons on social media and then, when called out on it, be allowed to resort to the age-old rationalization that it’s OK because — in the case of the disgusting bigoted cartoon — an African-American sent it to him, and he thought it was funny. And at the end of it all, takes no responsibility.

Is Mr. Adamowski serious when he writes, in effect, “hey — you’re immature, you lack professional judgment, you demeaned women and African-Americans, but all that’s Ok because you’re a great hockey coach ...”? In other words, someone who wishes to be a coach can publicly air vulgarities, and it’s all good because he wants to help kids win games, and kids and families like him because he was a winning coach.

Aly Raisman and others recently bravely outlined both the sexual abuse they experienced at the hands of an American Gymnastics Association/USOC doctor. Over 100 young athletes were abused by this man and were ignored or threatened with retribution by the officials. The officials knew and did nothing. After all, he was a great doctor and it was all about image and winning.

It’s breathtaking to note the juxtaposition of athletes demanding to be heard by a system that ignored their cries for help and a hockey coach refusing to take responsibility for inexcusable behavior.

While not nearly as reprehensible as sexual abuse, proudly posting putrid images on social media is on the spectrum of inappropriate behavior, especially when done by someone who purports to want to work with kids. It was and is the responsibility of Norwalk-McMahon hockey program and school officials to take action that stings more than a benign slap on the wrist.

Mr. Adamowski’s mindset and reversal of consequences for Mr. Wehmhoff means that students and families are learning that honor and personal integrity are meaningless provided you win the game. It’s especially troubling at a time when the spotlight is being shined upon how easy it is for good people to say nothing in the face of ugliness.

Hockey may be, as Mr. Adamowski put it, Mr. Wehmhoff’s life passion. But this “coach’s” life passion needs to be removed from having anything to do with students.

Penny M. Kessler is a resident of Bethel.