A bar in State College, Pennsylvania, the college town surrounding Penn State University, may soon be the site of a new statue of disgraced ex-coach Joe Paterno — two years after Penn State removed theirs. The iconic leader of the vaunted Penn State football program for more than 40 years, the late Paterno was fired in late 2011 amid the revelation that his longtime defensive coach, Jerry Sandusky, was a predatory child sex abuser. Grand jury testimony given by Paterno revealed that he'd known of an allegation against Sandusky in 2001, but only reported it to his immediate supervisor, not the police.
A subsequent investigation, conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh, about the Penn State side of the scandal — the cover-up effort, by high-ranking officials at the state-run university, including then-President Graham Spanier — was also deeply critical of Paterno.
It concluded, by means of an email from the football team's athletic director to Spanier, that Paterno may have actively dissuaded the former from reporting Sandusky's behavior to the police as early as 1998. Paterno's family has contested and decried that particular claim, contending it's based on circumstantial evidence.
Notwithstanding, the evidence that Paterno knew, in his own testimony, of Sandusky allegedly "fondling" a child in the Penn State locker room, and failed to report him to the police in 2001 — Sandusky's abuse would continue for years more, before his arrest in 2011 — is enough for many, many people to think he shouldn't have a statue in his honor.
After Paterno's death just months after his firing (which provoked riots from students), the imposing bronze statue of him that stood in front of Penn State's Beaver Stadium instantly became the topic of fervent argument.
The university ultimately opted to take it down, with its new president, Rodney Erickson, saying:
Were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse.
Which makes sense! Because who would want to honor someone who negligently enabled a child abuser? Even if you still have fond memories of ol' JoePa, who would want to subject a community, abuse survivors among them, to such a troubling public tribute? One of the people organizing the fundraising effort for the statue, Ted Sebastianelli, gave his take to Onward State.
There’s been some level of frustration among Penn Staters with what happened with the statue at the stadium. We wanted to come up with a way to honor Joe for all that he did for the State College community. It wasn’t just the university he impacted — it was the whole town.
Considering the old on-campus statue was taken down after repeated threats against it, it'll be interesting to see how long this one lasts, if it ultimately is built. It's planned to be in place by November 2015 — a seated Paterno, on a bench outside of State College's Tavern Restaurant.