Editor’s Note: This story contains graphic subject matter that may be upsetting to some readers.
Long before revelations that former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky had allegedly sexually abused a number of at-risk youth, another high-profile predator used the cover of athletics to molest young boys.
Between 1971 and 1991, Donald Fitzpatrick, a long-time Red Sox clubhouse manager, systematically molested and abused nearly a dozen African-American boys in their hometown of Winter Haven, Florida, where the baseball team held their Spring training.
“He grabbed me and told me to take my clothes off,” Leeronnie Ogletree, who said Fitzpatrick lured him into years of molestation when he was just 10, told thepostgame.com. “I’ll never forget him putting his mouth on my penis. I don’t mind telling it now because I’m over it. But that stands out. And I’ll never forget it.”
It took decades for the truth to come out about Fitzpatrick, who is white, and his criminal desire for young black boys. In 2003 the Boston Red Sox settled a $3.15 million federal lawsuit brought against them by Ogletree and seven other men from Winter Haven who said Fitzpatrick repeatedly molested them as boys.
Benjamin Crump, the lawyer who handled Ogletree’s case against Fitzpatrick and the Boston Red Sox, said the similarities between the Penn State and Red Sox scandals are startlingly similar. There were cover-ups, denials and the enabling of pedophiles to use the power of their institutions to prey on the weak, in the Red Sox case, “poor black boys,” he said. The kinds of youth often considered society’s “throwaways.”
“You have these sports institutions; you have all these people of authority; you have all this public support for these institutions and hear talk about what great institutions they are, but then when you ask them to do the right thing and have compassion for these young people, the institutions deny, deny, deny,” said Crump, of Parks & Crump. “They sweep it under the rug and they look the other way.”
According to reports, former Red Sox players such as Jim Rice and Sammy Stewart got wind of Fitzpatrick’s deeds and would warn kids in the clubhouse to avoid him. In 1971, one of Fitzpatrick’s victims came forward to the team, and in a manner similar to Penn State’s handling of the Sandusky allegations, the team did not alert authorities or fire Fitzpatrick.
But supporters for Ogletree and the other men who settled in the case, who have become known as the Winter Haven seven, wonder how race and class might have played in the team’s inaction once they got a whiff of what Fitzpatrick might have been up to.
“These kids came from impoverished backgrounds and many times, no father. Fitzpatrick used that to his advantage and preyed on these kids that were poor,” Crump said. “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.”
Source: Huffington Post / Black Voices