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July 20, 2012 4:02 PM What To Do About Joe Paterno’s Statue?

By Minjae Park

The question of whether or not to remove the bronze statue of Joe Paterno outside Penn State’s football stadium has become the subject of debate in the wake of former FBI director Louis Freeh’s report on the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones tweeted Friday morning, “Am told that Penn State plans to take down the Paterno statue this weekend.” But after members of the board denied that a decision had been made, Jones tweeted in the afternoon, “Prez Rodney Erickson’s office is telling PSU donors that ‘no final decision’ has been made on statue.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook called on Penn State to tear down the statue in a Monday article:

The statue represents the evil that was within Paterno. It was built because of the Penn State football empire that he constructed, an empire that he allowed to careen dangerously out of control as he was being made into an iconic figure and campus deity. “Success With Honor” is how they once described it. “The Paterno Way.”
Now, we know better.

One trustee told ESPN, “The statue represents the good that Joe did. It doesn’t represent the bad that he did.”

Ta Nehisi-Coates, in an op-ed piece for The New York Times on Wednesday, wrote that the statue should stay, but for an entirely different reason: to remind us of the crimes of Sandusky and of the broader community. He wrote, “The statue should remain, and beneath it there should be a full explanation of Sandusky’s crimes, Paterno’s role and some warning to all of us who would turn a pastime into a god and elect a mortal man as its avatar.”

The 267-page Freeh report, released last Thursday, found that Paterno had known about Sandusky’s conduct before Sandusky retired as assistant coach in 1999, but refused to take action. The report says the president, senior vice president of finance and business and the athletic director and Paterno “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”

According to report:

These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001. Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity, of what McQueary saw in the shower on the night of February 9, 2001.

The board of trustees fired Paterno and university president Graham Spanier last November, two months before Paterno died.

Steve Garban, a trustee who had been serving as the board chairman when the scandal broke, resigned yesterday, saying his presence on the board had become “a distraction and an impediment.” The Freeh report found that Garban had been notified of developments in the Sandusky case in April 2011, before the scandal broke, but did not share the information with the rest of the board, thus preventing it from taking action.

A university spokesman said the school would make a decision about the statue next week, according to ESPN. ESPN’s Don Van Natta reported on Friday that the university president Rodney Erickson, not the board of trustees, will be making that decision.

In the wake of the Freeh report, Paterno’s alma mater Brown University struck Paterno’s name from the award given to outstanding freshman male athletes. Nike has also decided to rename the Joe Paterno Child Development Center.

Some have also demanded Paterno’s name be removed from the university library. Whether that will happen—like the fate of the bronze statue—remains as yet unclear.

Minjae Park is an intern at the Washington Monthly.

Comments

  • N.Wells on July 20, 2012 7:24 PM:

    Rather than the unseemly options that immediately spring to mind about using it for a "Vlad The Impaler" solution to the problem of what to do with Jerry Sandusky or relocating it to the football team's shower room, how about donating it to the Catholic church, after re-inscribing it, "Let This Be A Lesson About Cover-Ups"?