HBO's new movie, Paterno, focuses on Joe Paterno's involvement in Jerry Sandusky's Penn State sexual abuse scandal. Paterno, played by Al Pacino in the film out April 7, was known as "The winningest coach in college football history." He might have co-coached the Pennsylvania State football team with Sandusky, but Paterno also focuses on Scott Paterno, Joe's son who is now working as a consultant in Pennsylvania, according to his LinkedIn profile.
The trial following Sandusky's 45 counts of child sexual abuse had an effect on Paterno's whole family, with Scott being the first to realize that Sandusky's actions would have a major impact on his father's career. According to sports writer Joe Posnanski's biography of the coach, as quoted in GQ, Scott called his father after reading the presentment of Sandusky's trial. "Dad, you have to face the possibility that you will never coach another game," Scott reportedly said.
Scott had been correct, as his father was fired as the head football coach after 46 years with Penn State in 2011, according to CNN. As HBO's movie portrays, the sexual assault scandal affected everyone in Paterno's family, largely because the coach had been a beloved figure among Penn State football fans for many years. Scott also had a reputation among many as he worked as a lawyer and a lobbyist before running for Congress. Through his father's reputation, Scott understood what it meant to be a public figure, and therefore he knew what was at stake when he learned about the accusations against Sandusky.
While Sandusky's abhorrent mistreatment of 10 boys, according to USA Today, became the focus of headlines during the 2011 trials, the film focuses on the question of Paterno's involvement and knowledge of his assistant coach's sexual abuse. "Dad, did you know about Jerry?" Scott asks his father in the film. As Posnanski's book recalls, Scott learned about the indictment against Sandusky before it officially came out through his legal sources, and he took it upon himself to get the truth from his father. After asking Paterno repeatedly if he knew anything, the coach's son told Posnanski, "I had to do everything I could to not cry right then."
Scott and his family maintain that Paterno had no idea about Sandusky's history of committing sexual abuse before 2001, but a 2017 report came out which claimed that a man named Mike McQueary approached the coach in 2001 to report that he witnessed Sandusky acting inappropriately with a boy in the locker room. According to USA Today, McQueary's claim contributed to Sandusky's 2012 conviction, but it wasn't until four years later that CNN reported that Joe Paterno had told McQueary that it "was the second complaint of this nature he had received."
While Paterno's family did not comment on CNN's 2017 story, Scott responded to a 2016 report that Paterno allegedly learned about Sandusky's misconduct all the way back in 1976. As Reuters reported, Scott Paterno responded to this story on Twitter by saying, "All bunk." Scott has frequently taken to Twitter to deny certain claims against his father, who died in 2012 at 85. On April 4, Scott tweeted in reference to the HBO film, "Just read one review which quotes dad as saying “goddamn” to my mother. Never happened. The man rarely swore and never in front of mom. A tip of the iceberg I am sure but just a reminder - this is a work of fiction. We had no input and the portrayal is uninformed." It's not the first time that Scott has taken to Twitter to question the veracity of HBO's Paterno.
Whatever your opinion of Paterno may be, HBO's Paterno will likely provide new insights into how the family grappled with its patriarch's fall from grace.