There is no other phrase to properly describe what we have witnessed in the case of Greg Schiano.
The man was unquestionably lynched by a rabid mob using nothing more than third hand, unsubstantiated allegations employing the most unstoppable attack mode in our current society.
Weaponized social media, in the hands and fingers of the self-proclaimed righteous, costing a man his job, his reputation, his years spent seeking to follow a passion. All gone, stripped away in figurative seconds, by a group that, at times and as I have witnessed over many years, manages to prove their worth as the lowest form of rumor mongering bottom feeders imaginable.
“Loyal” sports fans. Those with no other purpose in life than to denigrate, insinuate, and excoriate others simply due to their “love” and “passion” of a sports franchise. Frankly, it is never more evident and damaging than in college athletics. Of course, this is not meant to nor should it be taken as a generalization of ALL college sports fans. As is always the case, this is again a small group that in no manner should cast a net over an entire community.
But the level of hate they bring to the fore is more palpable than ever before, thanks to the instant reaction and anonymity of social media.
Greg Schiano, by no action of his own and certainly no desire, has now become the center of a damaging and despicable universe that permeates every facet of our society. One that exposes a dark and seamy side of our nature. One that is fed by lies, innuendo, and that desire to, in this case, “protect our program”.
One must go back to 2016, when Schiano was implicated in the Penn State football program sex scandal. Then Head Coach Joe Paterno and many others knew that assistant Gerry Sandusky was at the core of what turned out to be a shocking “wink and a nod” by so many people who knew for years what Sandusky was up to, yet did nothing, said nothing, and covered up any and all allegations in order to, here’s the phrase again, “protect the program”.
However, there was never any substantive proof of the allegations regarding Schiano. All second and third hand hearsay, none of which would hold up in even the most comical kangaroo court. When Schiano’s name surfaced as the potential new Head Coach at the University of Tennessee, even the usually reliable “Washington Post” fed the fantasy flames.
The “fan” reaction was swift, viral, and vile. Without a single shred of evidence, armed with their myopic and misguided view of what’s important in life, the cyber-lynching of Schiano forced Tennessee officials to withdraw their consideration. In other words, caving to the mob.
It cannot be stated more clearly. There is not one shred of connectable, viable or provable evidence that Schiano knew anything about the rampant child molestation at Penn State during the Paterno/Sandusky era.
The University of Tennessee has made it very clear who runs the show in Knoxville when it comes to football. A small group of despicable loyalists. In the process, UT has become the latest in a sad string of running jokes about how the delusional among us place such a ludicrously high level of importance on what is, in essence, just a game.
This is much bigger than sports. Much more of a concern than just one football program or one group of cowardly individuals determined to ruin the life of someone they don’t even personally know.
This is another abject lesson in how social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, You Tube or even blogs such as this can be used as a weapon. How it reveals an ugly side to our human nature. One that relies on hearsay, innuendo, rumors and seeks nothing more than to draw attention to those who have power over facts, common sense, and a simple sense of decency.
Remember this: You, the individual, the company, the group…have absolutely NO power to stop such attacks. They can be launched without warning. They are used by those who seek to destroy your life, your livelihood, your reputation, and without question will impact your personal brand and image. They do it because they can, and to some it’s nothing more than macabre entertainment. They enjoy tearing people down, most often because they themselves have little or no ability in rising to be someone better. They wallow in their hate, and all they seek to do is drag others in with them.
The only thing you can do is every day, every second of every day, tend to that image. Care for it. Work on it. Stay above the fray at all times without giving one damn what others say about you. Be honorable, have respect for those around you, and protect your integrity at all times.
In the end, there is nothing more valuable that the truth. You will be forced to weather a storm of hate and vitriol, but you must use it as a challenge. You must let your lifetime of work and integrity speak for you. Stand on the facts. Stand on your achievements. Look the accusers straight in the eye and refuse to blink. That’s what they want. Never give them the satisfaction.
As for employers or potential employers, show some guts and stand for what is right. Refuse to allow a mob mentality to make your decisions. Show everyone who works for you that you have a sense of dignity and leadership that cannot be swayed by a rabid mob or even a single individual.
Learn from the mistakes by UT management.
Fight those weapons with the truth. Hold fast to who you are. Never let ’em see you sweat.