In the days since the Freeh Report was released alleging that former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno knew of Jerry Sandusky‘s child abuse crimes and cooperated in a cover-up of said crimes, the statue that stands outside of Beaver Stadium built to honor the once-sainted head coach has become a source of contention and controversy.
Just last week, a banner plane bearing the message, “Tear down the statue or we will” ominously flew over Happy Valley. Social media users have publicly called for its removal, yet on the other side of the battle, many Penn State faithful hoped that it would remain, including several students who threatened to chain themselves to its base if taken down.
Early Sunday morning, the decision was made, and behind a chain link fence and blue tarp, the Paterno statue was removed.
Jackhammers and student chants of “We are Penn State!” both filled the air as the 7-foot-tall, 900-pound statue was moved by forklift into the stadium, away from public view.
The statue was erected in honor of Paterno’s record-breaking 324th coaching victory in Division 1 college football as well as his life-long “contributions to the university.”
On Sunday morning, the university’s president, Rod Erickson, publicly announced his reasons for the decision, claiming that the statue “has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing.”
He went on to add the following:
I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse.
I fully realize that my decision will not be popular in some Penn State circles, but I am certain it is the right and principled decision.
School officials did, however, agree to keep the once-sainted coach’s name on the university’s library, declaring it “symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University.”
I’m sure it was an incredibly difficult decision for Penn State officials, but I believe that it was absolutely the right thing to take down the statue of the fallen legend.
It’s a terrible thing that it has come to this, but perhaps now, healing can begin for the Penn State faithful, and primarily for all of those directly affected by this heartbreaking tragedy.