On Wednesday, we broke the news that a new Joe Paterno statue was coming to downtown State College by Fall 2015 outside of the Tavern restaurant. Inevitably, this set the Internet off into a frenzy of opinions on the nationally controversial and tragically complex former coach.
Most Penn Staters, of course, were wholly supportive of the new statue honoring one of our university’s most important and beloved figures (although some did recommend better uses for the $300,000).
“There’s a culture of people in State College that clearly appreciates what Joe has done,” organizer Ted Sebastianelli said. “Our alumni always want to know how we will honor him. This is something we can do for State College while getting Penn Staters from around the country involved. This has nothing to do with university. We are doing this on our own.”
However, others outside of State College were not so favorable to the future bronze memorial, especially after national outlets like the New York Daily News, Washington Post, and Sports Center picked up the story (our Twitter account alone received no less than 300 “Will he be looking the other way” or “Will his eyes be closed” knee-slappers on Wednesday).
One sexual abuse victim support group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), took their disapproval to an official capacity, and released a pointed statement denouncing the new statue.
“It breaks our hearts to see Penn State alums acting so irresponsibly by erecting a privately-funded new statue to Joe Paterno,” wrote Outreach Director Barbara Dorris. “Penn State officials should denounce this callous move.”
“Paterno was not the most egregious wrongdoer in the Jerry Sandusky horror. But it’s clear that, at best, he should have done more and at worst, he was a part of a school bureaucracy that turned a blind eye to suspicions about Sandusky’s crimes.
“This hurtful decision will deter victims, witnesses and whistleblowers in child sex cases from protecting kids by reporting abuse, by reinforcing their often-justified pessimism that adult wrongdoers matter more than wounded kids and their fear that even if they speak up, powerful and popular grownups will usually escape being exposed or punished for ignoring or concealing child sex crimes.
“It will further victimize those already victimized – at Penn State and elsewhere – by child molesters, by showing them that many adults are willing to ignore or minimize their pain and honor a wrongdoer so they can feel good about a football team.
“A doctor’s first job is to “do no harm.” In child sex cases, that’s the job of every caring adult. These alums are, in fact, doing harm. They should know better.
“Those who donated are putting the reputation of a deceased wrongdoer ahead of the healing of child rape victims. They are doing precisely what hundreds of Catholic officials and other complicit church staff have done for decades: putting more value on the reputation of an institution than on the safety of kids and the healing of victims.”
Frank Fina, the state prosecutor that investigated Jerry Sandusky and helped put him behind bars, has previously said that Joe Paterno did not participate in any malicious wrongdoing as it relates to the Jerry Sandusky case.