Penn State takes down the Joe Paterno statue: 6 takeaways
On Sunday, Penn State took down the statue of its famed late football coach, Joe Paterno, that stood outside the university's football stadium, the latest aftershock of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. The move followed a report from former FBI director Louie Freeh alleging that Paterno helped cover up reports that Sandusky had sexually abused kids involved in a charity he started. Penn State President Rod Erickson said the 7-foot-tall statue had become "an obstacle to healing." Paterno's family called it inappropriate for the university to pass judgment on Paterno before the "full truth" is known, and protested that removing the statue "does not serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky's horrible crimes." Here, six takeaways from the controversy:
1. The statue had to go
The university's decision to put Paterno's likeness in storage "was inevitable," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. After students returned from summer break, "the statue would have become a rallying point for the supporters and critics of Paterno and just would have led to more problems." Besides, the statue went up back in the days when Paterno was seen as a hero, and, "after what was revealed in the report," those days are gone for good. "If the Paterno family is offended by that, well that's their problem."
2. Paterno still is not forgotten
The statue is gone, says Jennifer Preston at The New York Times, but Penn State isn't erasing Paterno's memory entirely. The name of the legendary coach, who died of cancer in January at age 85, will remain on the campus library, symbolizing "the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence" that Paterno made to Penn State in his 46 years at the school.
3. Penn State is trying to have it both ways
"The university is sending a mixed message," says Scared Monkeys, by treating Paterno as a hero at the library and a villain at the stadium. Sandusky had access to athletic facilities — and an office on campus — after Paterno was made aware of the allegations that he had sexually abused boys in a locker room. Removing the statue suggests that Penn State's leaders believe it was "heinous and... wrong for Paterno not to have done more" to intervene. "If Paterno has gone from Saint to Satan," Penn State's leaders should say so, without waffling. "You can't have it both ways."
4. The people running the university still don't get it
Penn State "created this mess because of a culture that believed in doing things behind curtains," says Bob Ford at The Philadelphia Inquirer. And the way administrators carted off Paterno's likeness — at dawn, wrapped in a blue tarp behind a chain-link fence to keep onlookers away — showed "that very little has changed." To start a new era of transparency, Penn State should have dealt with the statue openly, by leaving it in place with a plaque recognizing the good and bad of Paterno's legacy, or by acknowledging its removal in a forthright way. Pretending that Paterno's significance could be swiftly, secretly "removed with a forklift is ludicrous."
5. So much remains unknown, this is premature
"Yes, Joe Paterno did wrong," Gayle Barnes, a juror who voted for conviction in Sandusky's trial, tells ESPN. But "we don't have all 100 percent of the facts." It's too early to say who could have, and should have, done more to stop the abuse. We know what Sandusky did, but until the whole truth comes out concerning everyone else, "I don't think it should be coming down... Give it time."
6. Penn State's troubles are far from over
Removing the Paterno statue doesn't get Penn State off the hook, says Craig Houtz at Reuters. The university is still facing the wrath of the NCAA, which is imposing "crippling sanctions" on the school's football program for covering up Sandusky's crimes. Penn State escaped the feared "death penalty" — the cancelling of an entire season or more — but the NCAA announced Monday that it was fining the school $60 million and barring the football team from participating in bowl games for four years. With or without Paterno standing sentry at the stadium, "Penn State's storied football team is undergoing a reckoning after long serving as the university's cash cow, not only for ticket and merchandise sales but for the goodwill it instilled in deep-pocketed donors and alumnae."