In a move that was surprising to next to no one, Penn State University has elected to take down a statue of famed and disgraced former football coach Joe Paterno. The announcement came early Sunday morning, with construction vehicles and police arriving at dawn, and the statue officially moved and put inside Beaver Stadium at 8:22 a.m. EST.
Penn State President Rod Erickson released a statement earlier this morning, that said in part:
I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno’s statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond. For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue and store it in a secure location. I believe that, 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. So there you have it. Paterno’s statue is now down.
Erickson’s words sum up the situation best, and because of those words, its little surprise that this decision was made.
As most of you likely know by now, a recent report conducted by former FBI agent Louis Freeh confirmed what a Grand Jury report had already revealed; essentially that Paterno, along with three other high-ranking Penn State officials helped cover up the crimes of disgraced former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. In June of this year, Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse of young boys, and is currently sitting in a Pennsylvania prison. And according to Freeh’s report, Paterno, former Penn State President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley knew about Sandusky’s potential crimes as early as 1998, and did nothing to stop them.
And with the release of the Freeh report two weeks ago, the statue became the center of a campus-wide debate: Should it stay, or should it go. On the one hand, some cited Paterno’s on the field achievements, as well as the positive impact he did make on the university for the 61 years he was in town. On the other hand, many couldn’t look past the crimes that were committed on Paterno’s watch, and what he could’ve done to stop them. The statue became a lightning rod in the community and nationwide, with some fans going as far as to charter a plane with a sign that read “Take the statue down or we will.”
In the end the public backlash was too much, and the Paterno statue was removed. According to Erickson, it will be placed into storage for the foreseeable future.
And with it, quite possibly the darkest chapter in the history of college athletics has been closed.
Taking down the statue isn’t the only a step to help the university and town of State College begin the healing process.
It is a start though.
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