Normally I am the type of writer and I follow the type of writing that has a balance of opinion and research. For this piece however, there is not much gathering that needs to take place. Joe Paterno, former Head Football Coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, was layed to rest on Thursday in a week-long celebration of his life. The final public memorial service was held with around 12,000 people in attendance, showing that the scope of his influence was far-reaching and infinite. There were several speakers at the service and that included former players, fellow coaches, and family members but the most outspoken speaker was none other than Phil Knight, Nike Chairman and CEO. Knight addressed the role that Paterno had in reporting the alleged child sex abuse allegations on long time Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Knight stated at the service speaking of Paterno’s reporting of the allegations that he, “gave full disclosure to his superiors, information that went up the chains to the head of the campus police and the president of the school. The matter was in the hands of a world-class university, and by a president with an outstanding national reputation.” Knight also said about Paterno, “this much is clear to me: If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno’s response.” These comments were made with a thunderous applause, in fact a multi-minute standing ovation.
The accomplishments of Joe Paterno were to be celebrated at his memorial service, but for Phil Knight to bring up the right, wrong, or culpability of the pending sex abuse charges was in “poor taste”. That occasion was not the right time to use as a referendum to decide whether or not Paterno fulfilled his obligations to what was reported to him. However, since Knight brought it up, I’ll address it. I have a different perspective on this. I believe that Paterno supporters are being very hypocritical in their approach about his state of mind at the time this took place. In some circles, it is felt that Paterno was not aware of what he was being told by then Graduate Assistant Mike McQueary about what he allegedly witnessed Sandusky doing to a young boy in the shower that day. We have forgotten however, that not that long ago there were several Penn State officials that questioned whether or not Joe Paterno was competent enough to continue coaching. Paterno continually defended his ability to continue coaching, regardless of his age, and constantly saying he felt great. So judging from this mindset it is only logical that he clearly understood what McQueary was telling him, especially considering the fact that this was 10 plus years ago. Besides, if you put the words “boys”, “shower”, “sex”, and “Coach” in any combination, people with half the mind of Paterno would find a police officer. You cannot use his mindset and say he may have not understood to justify the way he reported the alleged incident. I wish people would call it what it is; Paterno attempting to protect the “Program” by any means necessary.
Phil Knight operates a multi-billion dollar corporation in Nike so I am sure that he really does not care what I think and can speak freely about what he thinks but clearly he did not read the Jim Boeheim manual on how not to defend your friend until you get all the evidence. The death of Joe Paterno does not end this episode, the trial is coming up soon. So until we know exactly what happened, keep your finger-pointing to a minimum. Knight needs to stop and do the same.
Jamie can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter @coachjdub21.