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. Eric Johnston

    The statue should stay to remember his on-the-field football legacy. Since 1966, Penn State football has been JoePa. Let the University keep the statue to remember the coach who put them on the map and improved the lives of many young men that he coached. JoePa did protect him, but he wasn't the only person who knew what was going on. Numerous people knew, but they attack Paterno because he is the biggest name. Anyways, Sandusky did the deeds, not Joe Paterno. Cancelling the football season would be pointless, there is a new coaching staff, a new president and board, additionally, Paterno, Sandusky, and Spainer are gone. Don't punish the people who weren't involved, they did nothing to deserve it.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Logic

      Don't see many statues of Nixon in Washington DC do we? He did end the Vietnam war and open up China after all...

      July 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portia

      You mean like the way he improved Mike McQueary's life...he ALL see clearly now exactly what kind of moral code Mr. Paterno was imparting to his as I say and not as I do and if anything happens on campus, KEEP it on campus...he was a coward who only cared about football and his "good name"...

      July 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • E. White

      You, along with the Paterno family, obviously cannot accept the fact, that Joe Paterno enabled a pedophile. Sandusky was a member of his staff, and was given access to Penn State facilities, including the football complex, and the showers, long after an investigation into his perverted behavior was initiated by law enforcement. You want Penn State to continue to be known as "Pedophile U"...... ???? Up to you and people like you who continue to think that protecting the legacy of Joe Paterno is more important than trying to compensate the victims of this horrible culture, and to make them whole again.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • BKB

      WOW, you just don't get it do you?

      July 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • DCJ

      Oh By all means....keep the idolic statue to commemorate his leadership of 18-22 year olds who, through his tutelage, pushed a leather ball across a line more times than other groups of 18-22 year olds. That legacy MUST be preserved over the very very direct involvement he had in covering up the fact that an adult man was molesting kids!!!!

      July 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • CC

      Joe did everything to deserve this. Not acting properly on information about a coaching staff member that is molesting children in your facilities should erase all your "good deeds". Winning matters more than people (children)?

      July 17, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jose

    I am must be missing something here. How does a head football coach profoundly influence the lives of thousands of students over the years boht on and off the field? I can understand the influence on football players he is coaching – but I don't get the rest. It is amazing to me that any man could be worshipped like that. But then again that just shows what was most important at Penn State the last 50 years – football.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Logic

      Every time PSU won a football game, the male students had a 90% better chance of getting lucky (with women that is). That's monumental in my book.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • E. White

      Easy, Jose. It's like any place where there are a lot of people. Some few people are on the "inside" and the rest are on the "outside". "Coach" Joe Paterno brought a lot of money and name recognition to Penn State. Curley, Spanier, Paterno, and others, (including Sandusky) because of the "football" revenues...... were on the "inside". They ran the place. Everybody else (including Sandusky's victims) were on the outside...... they didn't matter at all.....

      July 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Scott

    That statue is going one way or another. The university would be smart to remove it rather than having someone else remove it. Trying to save paterno's legacy will never happen.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. wondering

    Paterno was ugly in body and spirit

    July 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. achepotler

    I think the best memorial for JoePaw would be to disband the football program. Maybe that would send a signal to kiddy diddlers and thier buddies and helpers that there will be consequences.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GtDougla

    The sign reads "TAKE THE STATUE DOWN OR WE WILL". It does not read "Take down the Statue or We Will". Pitiful..

    July 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. s

    the statue is there to commemorate the man for what he did for football, getting rid of it won't negate his achievements along those lines and it won't negate the victims' pain, but it may serve as a reminder of what NOT to do when you know children are being taken advantage of. paterno is not the only adult to have failed those boys, nor is he the only adult in a position of power to have failed child abuse victims. cancelling the current season or the football program in it's entirety because a handful of men did not do their jobs 15 years ago will not help the victims but it will penalize young men who had nothing to do with any of it whatsoever. all this clamoring from various anonymous ppl in chat, who are in no way affected by penn state football for the most part... did anyone ask the actual abuse victims whether they give a hoot one way or the other about a statue of PATERNO, when SANDUSKY, who commited these heinous assaults, now sits in a cell? let's penalize the current student body and athletes who have worked hard to get as far as they have because that will make it all better. no, no, getting rid of all reference to paterno, doing away with football for a season or a year, is just papering over the most obvious visual evidence of the fact that a crime occurred. if we can't see it, we'll forget about it quicker. leave that statue where it is and let people look at it; "that man ultimately was a failure. i will not be".

    July 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John Reason

    This is why no man should be imortalized prior to their death. It is then that you can assure the man really is who you think he is.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sick of it all

    At the VERY least the ribbon on the mural that was added after the halo was removed should also be removed. It signifies fighting child abuse and HE certainly did NOT do that!

    July 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      I agree with this 100%

      July 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. David

    I'm sure there were people in Russia that didn't want to see Stalin's statue pulled down or in Iraq seeing Sadam's statue's torn down. There are always people that are going to be blind to the truth.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. HZD

    All the PSU students who are getting online and defending him ought to realize that they are essentially vomiting on their own diplomas. For the vast majority of this country who had no idea about Penn State, the only thing that we think about is this disgusting scandal. And for you guys to act like you are defending the reputation of Penn State by refusing to acknowledge the wrongdoing of so many of your supposed heroes is further establishing Penn State's awful reputation. You aren't defending your school; you are destroying it. Maybe in a few years, you will grow up and realize that you should have transferred out of the school while you still had the chance to get a diploma with a different name on it.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tom – continued and epic failure on your part! First, you re-worded the banner by asserting it stated, "Tear Down the Statute or We Will," and now you claim it states, "Take Down the Statute or We Will." Look at the image YOU folks posted; the banner clearly states, "Take the Statute Down or We Will." If you CANNOT report accurately something this simple, then I wonder how badly you've butchered other issues...

    July 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tina

    Ok so we want to take down the statue, change names, and remove all reference to Paterno is that right? What exactly will that accomplish? At the end of the day those children were still abused and their abuser is behind bars. We never will truely know how Paterno and the other men were connected to the abuse and cover up so we cannot treat him as if he was the abuser. Perhaps we should all see Paterno for what he was: a flawed human being (just like the rest of us) that should be honored for the great job he did for that football program for many, many years. Ask any of his former players and I'm sure they all remember him fondly and honor him as a coach.
    You want a college that isn't focused on athletics....don't go to a Division I school.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Carl

    I am a PSU Alumni and the Statue has to come down. He protected the wrong Person and allowed this shameful act to continue when he could have been a hero and stopped it. No take it down and melt it down.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Roundjohnvirgin

    On more sober reflection, how about replacing Joe's statue with ones of Pederast State's top 3 honchos in the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" monkey poses? Isn't that a good synopsis of the issue and a commemoration of the event? Maybe these same honchos can be sued for the dollar value of whatever hit Pederast State takes as a result of their misdeeds. They can then spend the rest of their careers in paper hats asking folks if they want fries with that. The males might also be sent for conjugal visits with Sandusky, even though he clearly prefers kids....

    July 17, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
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