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)

    I’m 64yo, live in NYS, and missed very few Penn State during my life and until now had always appreciated and respected Joe Paterno as one of the greatest football coaches of all times. But in light of all that has been exposed one has to realize that it only take one bad thing to erase all that good that you may have done and it gets no worse then this. One comes to realize that indirectly Joe was an enabler and there was a time he should have gone to officials outside of PS and he chose not too. His images/name should be removed to allow PS to move on as it will be a constant reminder of what he was a part of.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Yoda

    Great football coach? Coaching football does not make one great.

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

    I have been an avid follower of collegiate football since I was a child. The problem with people saying "why punish the "student' athletes and the whole university becasue of the actions of a few" is that the rot is much deeper than the top three or four officials – they are all gone – and look at all the people who insist on defending a corrupt program. I realize that PSU is not alone in term of having an out of control athletic department, but the sins are so egregious there that I feel an real example should be made. Tearing down a statue does nothing, renaming a tent city does nothing – outside of symbolism. The program needs to be shut down, and anyone associated with "The Penn State Way" needs to go.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bethany

    Should they remove the library too? Leave the statue as a reminder of what happened and not to happen again, taking it down doesn't change history.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Erik

    Start anew. Remove Paterno vestiges.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joe

    In the testimony from the Grand Jury, Asst. Coach McQueary observed what seemed to be sodomy between Sandusky and a boy. He went to his father, upset of what he witnessed. They both went to the AD's office and spoke to Paterno and the AD about what McQueary had seen. They called days later and said "We took care of the problem, we took Sandusky's keys away to the team locker room.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Emily

    While I believe Paterno did not act as effectively in the Sandusky matter as he should have, I think that the decision of Brown to take his name off the "outstanding freshman athelete" award was a little much. He was in college at that point! Jeez. I also think tearing down the statue is too much. He was an important part of PSU history, and while I think it's important that they move away from things like "Paternoville", there are still fond memories of him and that should also be remembered. Purging every image of him from the university won't allow others to learn from the past.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erik

      He should not be memorialized with statues or otherwise for the needless pain he allowed so many people to endure for years all in the name of football.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • ken

      I would bet there were a lot of found memories of certain leaders in German after 1945....should we have left those vestiges? I mean, they pulled German out of economic chaos, built the autobaun...lots of good things, right?

      July 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |

      Emily what happened will be remember for generations to come regardless of the presents of Joe's images or name. Anyone going to PSU will know the great contributions that made without the presents of his image or name to remind them of what he was a part of.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tina

      @Emily – I agree with everything you wrote.

      July 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DCJ

    When Nebraska wanted to put up a statue of Tom Osborne he said no. Put a statue up of Brook Berringer (qb who died in a plane crash) THAT is class. in the interest of full disclosure they put up the statue of Berringer...his likeness is receiving instruction from his head coach....Tom Osborne....By the way I am not trying to turn this into a fan board, I am an Oklahoma Sooner fan, just have a lot of respect for someone the way Osborne handled that.

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

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

    I fail to see how this makes a news article. Why does it matter what 60% of random people think. PSU isn't a public school, and if you have no ties to PSU, your opinion matters as much as picking what Britney Spears should have for dinner.

    Nice hit piece CNN, keep up the good job of "reporting". PSU Alum '11, will never forget the legend that was and is Joe Paterno.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      If you are so proud to defend this guy, why not leave your name instead of "Anon".

      July 17, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JS

    Defend the guy who practically fed these kids to Sandusky. Yup, all join together and support that.


    July 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. brezzy

    anything that was ever done on that silly football field could never outweigh the failure of a man that paterno was to not get rid of sandusky. that statue should be melted into dust and keeping it is a monument to how rotten the men in charge of that organization are.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ken

    Penn St. needs to take a lesson from AA...the first step is admitting you have a problem...and that problem is the bizzare, over the top cult of personality that surrounded Paterno and his rather average football program. The idea that he was some type of mythically moral, superior and legendary leader has been shattered once and for all, not that it should have been that way in the first place. Until the students, alumni, townspeople and other supporters come to grips with that fact that their blind idolatry towards the megalomaniac that was Joe Paterno was every bit as responsible for Sandusky being able to terrify children for more than a decade as was the enabling of Joe Paterno himself.....the entire school is guilty.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bethany

      The entire school is guilty? The current students are guilty? The professors are guilty? I am glad the democratic system isn't built on your ideals.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • ken

      Yes Bethany....the school, the students, the alumni, the townspeople...all share a measure of guilt in the horrific tragedy...Just as did the German's for allowing the rise of Hitler...I guess you're more of the "well, I didn't work in the camps, so I'm innocent" kind of person....but it was these people's blind, out of control idolatry for football in general, and Paterno in particular that helped create the atmosphere that allowed the evil the go on....No outside influences, not voice dissent allowed..hec, despite an average football program, Paterno couldn't even be fired by the AD...why was that....student and alumni support had a lot to do with it. Take responsibility and stop hiding behind others.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bill

    Shame on those persecuting Joe Paterno. He did exactly what he was legally responsible for doing. The coverup was well over his head. He never saw anything, had it reported to him, and he contacted the school authorities and campus police. Penn State College is its own city. Blame the animal that committed the act. Blame those that made it temporarly go away. Blame the system and fix the system. I never went to Penn State, but I could not find this man guilty of anything other than not being a whistle blower with little to no facts. If he made a mistake and contacted State Police and was wrong he could have been sued for slander. Better hope I am not on a civil jury against his estate, the plantiffs would not get a dime. Joe is not at any percentage of fault. They should go after Sandusky estate for 50% and Penn State for 25%, and the Police for 25%.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • ken

      Bill, clearly you have not only read the reports, but have little understanding of the dynamics in play. Joe Paterno actively worked to cover up the situation and keep it in house, enough said. The evidence is clear and uncontested. You're just blind and ignorant,, or so rapped up in for fandom that you can't understand with the facts or the responsibilities involved. Just stick your head back in the sand, it would be best.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nospam

    Why are so many accepting that Joe Paterno is at fault based upon a report funded by the board of directors to show they didn't do anything wrong? When the scandal broke, the first thing they did was fire Joe Paterno before they had any information and spent the rest of the time afterwards looking for reasons to justify their actions (or lack thereof).

    I really hope that all these organizations that he gave donations to over the years are returning the money he gave them. Otherwise, I guess they would be condoning whatever they think it is he did, or didn't do. I really doubt that they are willing to do that.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • sckc

      Looks like you haven't read the report, either. The Board did plenty wrong. Every one of them should be thrown out. They STILL don't get it, by honoring a contract to a dead man who was fired for cause.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. LarryB

    Paterno did nothing worse than what the pope did in failing to protect young boys once the problem with pedophile priests was brought to his attention. If you want so much to vilify Paterno, you must likewise vilify the pope. He should be removed from his position too.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • drome007

      Hey Larry B.
      Um PATERNO'S office was right next to Sandusky's!!!
      PATERNO knew about the 1998 child abuse case and future allegations!!!
      PATERNO could have spoken up and AT THE VERY LEAST contacted authorities.
      But it's all for the "Sake of Game" and winning football games!
      Larry let's hope you don't have any boys..and if you do...I hope that they're not around creeps like Sandusky and let's hope that bosses like Paterno...don't keep their mouth shut.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • harryhaller

      You are right. They are both nasty pieces of work. So, let's take down the Paterno statue and work on taking down the pontiff! Let's hope the former is burning in Hades right now–and hope he's saving a nice hot spot for Nazinger!

      July 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martin Luther

      People have been vilifying the Catholic Church since the revelations first came out.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samson

      Agree completely. What is so special about the pope anyway?

      July 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • pzanga

      You're right – remove the Pope from his postion.
      Stupid argument.

      July 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim66

      larry you are right ..the catholic church is more interested in stopping women from getting needed health care mamograms contraceptives etc ..than they are of protecting children from the pedophiles that make up much of their clergy

      July 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
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