anne_mikolay_2012_120Unless you live in a vacuum, you are aware of Jerry Sandusky's conviction on 45 charges of sexually abusing young boys and the investigation into Joe Paterno's alleged knowledge and cover-up of Sandusky's grave misconduct. There's no need to rehash the Penn State mess. There's also no need for a statue honoring Paterno.

The Joe Paterno statue, located on the northwest side of Penn State's Beaver Stadium, hails the football hero as an “Educator, Coach, Humanitarian”. Paterno's professional record at Penn State speaks for itself; no-one can argue his role as educator and coach. However, Paterno's complicit, enabling behavior during Sandusky's victimization of children defies the very definition of humanitarian (“one who is devoted to the promotion of human welfare” and “having the interest of mankind at heart”). In that regard, Joe Paterno is an abject failure.

Sports enthusiasts who hold Paterno in high regard should rethink their position; this is not about football. While the Paterno statue celebrates a 46 year coaching career and is appreciated by football lovers and Penn State alumni who regularly chant “we are Penn State”, Paterno's deceptive behavior during the Sandusky scandal has transformed his statue into a monument to sexual abuse, manipulation of power, skewed values and priorities. Sandusky's statue is nothing more now than a conversation piece.

While it can be argued that conversation - any conversation -  about the Sandusky/Paterno/Penn State sexual abuse tragedy will keep society from burying its head in the sand regarding perpetrators of pedophilia, it boggles the mind to think a university struggling to rebuild a shamefully shattered reputation would want to keep a statue honoring one of the key players in the very scandal that tarnished the school's name in the first place. There are those, however, who have wisely distanced  themselves from Paterno and what he now stands for.

Mark Parker, CEO and President of Nike, did what was right and just in recently announcing (on July 12, 2012) the removal of Paterno's name from the Joe Paterno Child Development Center at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. The Maxwell Football Club in Philadelphia did not wait for the Freeh report findings to implicate Paterno before discontinuing in 2011 its Joseph V. Paterno Award given to qualified college football coaches. That same year, the Big Ten Conference dropped Paterno's name from the title of its annual trophy awarded to the winner of the conference football championship; the Stagg Paterno Trophy is now the Stagg Championship Trophy. In September, 2011, Joe Paterno was nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation's highest civilian honor, by U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and U.S. Representative Glenn Thompson (R-PA). When Paterno's alleged involvement in the Sandusky cover-up hit the media, Senators Casey and Toomey and Representative Thompson withdrew Paterno's nomination.

If these individuals and organizations recognize Paterno's complicity and took action to clearly indicate their lack of support for his diminished character, why doesn't Penn State do the same?

Joe Paterno's statue, a monument to deception, should be taken down. No excuses. No arguments. Respect Sandusky's victims. Do what is right and just. Take it down. People, especially children, come before football. Exactly what does Penn State need to evaluate here?

If the statue remains standing, it will be a tangible reminder of an evil Penn State cannot erase.