Airborne banner: Take down Paterno statue
A plane carries a banner reading "Take the Statue Down or We Will" above the Penn State campus on Tuesday.
July 17th, 2012
12:21 PM ET

Airborne banner: Take down Paterno statue

A small plane flew around the Penn State campus on Tuesday carrying a banner that read, "Take the Statue Down or We Will," a reference to the statue of former head football coach Joe Paterno that sits outside Beaver Stadium.

The statue is among many vestiges left from Paterno's 46 years as head coach of the Nittany Lions, a run that ended in disgrace in November when he was fired in the wake of a sex abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

"I'm a Penn State employee that thinks we have failed miserably, and I'm sad for the damage that has been done, but this is just upsetting," Diane Farley, a PSU alumnus who spotted the plane on Tuesday told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. "It's just stirring up everything."

Many people are calling for the Paterno statue to be torn down.

In an ESPN poll, more than 60% of respondents said the statue should be removed immediately or sometime before the 2012 football season commences.

A Penn State student group eliminated another Paterno vestige on Monday, renaming the encampment where students line up overnight to get the best seats for football games, from Paternoville to Nittanyville.

The action comes after a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh last week that found that several school officials had "empowered" Sandusky to continue sexually abusing minors. Paterno could have stopped the attacks had he done more, Freeh concluded.

Sandusky was convicted last month of sexually abusing children over 15 years, with much of the abuse occurring on the Penn State campus. He is awaiting sentencing.

Paterno died of lung cancer in January at the age of 85, two months after he was fired because of the Sandusky scandal.

In his 46 years as head coach at Penn State, Paterno achieved mythic status. But with the release of the Freeh report, many no longer want the symbols of that status, including the name of the encampment, to have such prominence in the university community.

"Now, it's a new era of Nittany Lion football," Troy Weller, a Penn State senior and president of the newly retitled Nittanyville Coordination Committee, said in a statement Monday. "And by changing the name to Nittanyville we want to return the focus to the overall team and the thousands of students who support it."

Students camp out in "Paternoville," outside Beaver Stadium, in November.

The organization's vice president, Jeff Lowe, said it couldn't function properly while still associated with the Paterno name.

"The idea of being in the middle of a political war over the name, due to our association with Joe Paterno, has lead to threats, hate mail and efforts from people outside of Penn State to try and ruin our ability to run an effective organization," Lowe told

Reaction to the announcement on the committee's Facebook page was swift and combative on both sides the argument.

"Another idiotic move by stupid people. For the student leaders that made this decision, do us all a favor and transfer. Cowards," wrote Bob Fetrow.

"This is pathetic," wrote Janessa Bednash. "Read the report. There is no evidence to determine Joe had a hand in covering this up.

"You're a disgrace to all that truly are Penn State. Joe Paterno included," Bednash scolded the Nittanyville committee.

"If you believe in the legacy (Paterno) left in the thousands of students he influenced both on and off the field then do not disgrace his name. You are a part of this college you should be defending him," said David Eberly.

Many predicted that the camp would see fewer students with the name change.

"Paternoville is officially dead. Don't be upset when 3 people show up at the first game and it goes downhill from there," wrote Chris Sheedy.

"I don't think you guys are going to get hardly any campers this year because of this. The organization will cease to exist in a matter of a couple of years," Bud Parks wrote.

Supporters of the move responded just as quickly, praising the organization and ripping its detractors.

"This organization has proven that it can do the right thing in the face of adversity. Unlike a certain former head coach that so many people are attempting to protect," wrote Skip Bishop.

"I'm glad the people running this page had the courage to change its name. They may be the only people at your university with any integrity," Will Teague said.

Others said the name change was not enough.

"Paterno was a villain, not a hero. His name is a blight - remove it from EVERYTHING," wrote Ben Stuenkel.

Some entities outside the university are doing just that.

Brown University in Rhode Island pulled the name of Paterno, an alumnus, from its outstanding male freshman athlete award.

"Since 1991, the Department of Athletics and Physical Education has presented an award to the year's outstanding male freshman athlete. In 1993 the Department of Athletics and Physical Education renamed the award to honor Joe Paterno," a statement from the school said. "In the spring of 2012, the Department of Athletics presented the award as it was originally created, honoring the year's outstanding male freshman athlete without Joe Paterno's name attached. The director of Athletics has now recommended and the University has approved the decision to remove permanently the Paterno name from the award. Past recipients will be informed of the decision to eliminate the name from the award."

Nike announced last week that a child care center at its Beaverton, Oregon, headquarters would no longer bear Paterno's name.

And a mural of Paterno in the gym of a Connecticut middle school will be painted over, the Connecticut Post reported.

And, of course, there are the calls to tear down the Paterno statue.

And some are questioning whether that season should commence at all, calling on the university to cancel the season or the NCAA to stop the school from playing.

Some experts are saying the school must do something drastic such as canceling the season to restore its good name.

“I can’t see any other action that shows that great intersection of wanting to do better - introspection, remorse, pain, leadership, humanity, empathy - in its real sense,” Dan Lebowitz, executive director of Northeastern University’s Sport and Society program, told “If they’re hoping for football to return to prominence, wouldn’t they want it also under a cleansed brand?”

More on Paterno in wake of scandal:

Paterno defended program in letter before his death

The woman who stood up to Paterno

Story of football hero recast

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Filed under: College football • Crime • Football • Jerry Sandusky • Joe Paterno • Justice • Penn State • Pennsylvania • Sports
soundoff (520 Responses)
  1. CNN poster

    The banner clearly says "Take the statue down...." Way to go, CNN.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mallory Simon, CNN News blog editor

      Thanks all, we've made the tweak to the text. Appreciate your keen eye and thanks for reading.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hank A

      Leave the statue... Just add one of Michael Jackson & John Wayne Gacy next to it.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luigi999

      Can the people on the board of trustees be so stupid as to leave that hideous statue up?

      That ugly statue is an insult to all of Sandusky's victims and all those who feel it should remain are just as callous toward those kids as Paterno was. This issue is a no-brainer but we've already seen that no-brainers are hard to come by at Penn State.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • john


      July 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Fail

    The banner in the photo clearly reads "take the statue down or we will". The photo caption reads "tear down the statue or we will". Minor point, but it's sloppy work. Granted the CNN version is catchier, it's just wrong.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TOM

    Penn State should also reimburse the Paterno family every penny they gave to the University therefore cutting all ties.
    You people are idiots !!!

    July 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Paterno's family should reimburse Penn St. first for bringing down the school's rep.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • dl knowles

      Nothing that the Paterno family had to give was not either from Penn State or a result of his association with Penn State. I am sure he took the tax write off for any "gift"

      July 17, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • TM

      Its all about money and pride, isn't it? Both these are alluded to in Proverbs 16:18 (#5 of 10 Bible Verses about Pride and Arrogance) "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." And, Luke 16:13 (NIV) "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
      This episode in the life of America has truly become one of our great tragedies. There, to me, has been many other humiliations that can't match this, except for the many Presidents of the USA that stood by and watched the degradation and lynchings of our African-American brothers and the repression and attempted annihilation of our Native American neighbors. We need to own up, or the penalty will be our souls.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chet

    FYI, The plane is from Ohio and it is an Ohio State fan.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    Approximately twenty years ago I saw Joe Paterno interviewed on national television and he was asked the hypothetical question as to what he would do if one of his players apparently caught a pass for a winning touchdown and a national championship, if the player immediately told the coach that it was not a catch but a trapped ball. Joe Paterno did not hesitate to say that he would not say anything and let the play stand. That's exactly what he did in the case of Jerry Sandusky; he compromised values and "let the play stand" to protect himself and the university.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mark trought

    Tear down that statue and anyone who says let it stay support pedophilia. I dont care about PAterno's record I care more about the children abused and who are scarred for life.Away with Paterno!!!

    July 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee Van Cleef

      your logic is so far out in left field. it is a statue, not an endorsement for pedophellia.

      July 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Roundjohnvirgin

    Beaver stadium is obviously a misnomer. Why not re-name it Diddler Park and leave Joe's statue where it stands? For that matter, what's wrong with calling the school Pederast State?

    July 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ELH

    Purge all things Paterno from the university's property. Everything, trophies, portraits, statues, awards, the whole shebang to the nearest landfill.

    Then disband the football program for 14 years, equal to the time Paterno and friends allowed Sandusky to continue his anal raping rampage. Idemnify all Sandusky's victims at least $10 million each using Penn State endowments.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • CC

      OOO I like your style!!!!

      July 17, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Pppa

    "Some experts are saying the school must do something drastic such as canceling the season to restore its good name." How about devoting the entire psychology department, along with major financial investment from the university, to find a way to protect people from pedophilia? Either by understanding how it appears, or how to eliminate it, but must of all, how to educate people so that they do not become victims...

    July 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tim in America

    Everyone needs to let the victims decide. I don't know why the public is trying to victimize the victims a second time.
    One of the worst things about being molested is what the public does to you afterwards. They invade your privacy, they NEED to know all the details, they make decisions for you, they treat you like you've been mentally damaged, if you say you're fine, they insist you are not... What the public does in horrible.
    In this case, let the VICTIMS decide.
    Everyone else... STOP MAKING THINGS WORSE.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rednip

    Actually Paterno could have helped stop Sandusky's attacks even if he did LESS. From the emails, it's quite clear that he protected the now convicted child molester.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bonkers

    all references of paterno and sandusky should be removed – this will allow the school to begin haling – Oh -and fire the top brass, their balls are too big too !

    July 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobby

    i agree this statue shows nothing but that they helped a pedophile,take it down.he is nothing more than a slime ball.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Clete

    It seems to me that the fairest way to determine if the statue should go or stay would be the democractic way...a vote by students, alumni, teachers and staff of Penn state. Outsiders, such as I, would not be allowed to vote. I feel that the statue should be removed as it would be a constant reminder of the failure of moral leadership of Penn State, not only of Joe Paterno, but of the Penn State athletic department and University leadership.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lee Van Cleef

    Removing the statue is not going to do anything or tighten anyone's balloon knot that Sandusky got ahold of.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • justuandi

      The statue needs to go down. It does not represent what it should anymore. Otherwise lets put up some Hitler's and Sadam's statue back up.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
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