'JoePa' Statue Removed; Penn State Faces Sanctions
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
The statue of Joe Paterno no longer stands outside Penn State Football Stadium.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOTOR RUNNING)
WERTHEIMER: The university announced early this morning that it would take the monument down in the wake of an investigative report that found the late coach had concealed sex abuse claims against one of his assistants, Jerry Sandusky.
Also this morning, the NCAA announced that Penn State would face corrective and punitive measures for its role in the scandal. Details are expected tomorrow.
Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the magazine joins me on the line now. Hello, Howard.
HOWARD BRYANT: Hello, Linda, how are you?
I'm good. Were you surprised to learn that Penn State finally made the decision and took down that statue?
Well, I think the statue is, in a lot of ways, cosmetic. I think that they had to do something. It's obvious that if you believe any notion of healing, that that statue had to go at some level. It was going to be a constant distraction. It was going to be a constant source of divisiveness. It was going to constantly be a symbol of everything that wasn't done. And I feel that especially with Joe Paterno's role in this being more and more exposed through the Freeh report, yes, then it...
WERTHEIMER: The former FBI director.
BRYANT: Yes. Then it certainly was not going to be a symbol of anything positive. I felt, I felt they had to do something, is not surprising at all.
WERTHEIMER: Now, we learned that Penn State will face corrective and punitive measures, details to come. What do you expect? What do you think they'll do?
BRYANT: Well, I think it all depends on what you believe corrective, punitive and unprecedented measures are. I felt this morning before that release had come out that, obviously, with the statue coming down, that was the first step. The big question, obviously, is whether or not Penn State football will be playing on September 1st in their home opener against Ohio University; that will the NCAA, or will Penn State take the measure of shutting down their own program.
This is a billion dollar industry. This is an iconic program that essentially has been rendered irrelevant because of what has happened. It's impossible to look at Penn State the same way. It's impossible to look at the football program the same way.
The problem that I've always had in our culture has been this notion that you can remove the individuals but leave a corrupt culture intact. And if you read the Freeh report, the one thing that it refers to constantly is a culture of reverence that enabled this.
So, to me, if you're really going to take that report at face value, if you're going to look at what happened, if you're going to look at how Jerry Sandusky was allowed to operate, if you're going to look at how he was able to stay in the public or in the university community and to have access and to do the things that he did, there's only one explanation, and that is the reverence of football. I mean, football is what did this.
So, if you're to conclude that, it's very, very difficult to allow Penn State football to continue without some sort of postponement - without some sort of major, massive sanction.
On the other hand, we've heard numerous conversations about whether or not that is the prudent thing to do because you're not - I mean, who are you helping by shutting down a program? The damage has been done. Maybe there's a way to allow Penn State to redeem itself. There's a way for the university to use the power of its football program to find its way back into the light.
I don't know the answer. What I do know is that if unprecedented and corrective means what I think it means, I don't think Penn State will be playing football this year or probably next year.
WERTHEIMER: Howard Bryant, of ESPN.com and ESPN the magazine. Thank you very much, Howard.
BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.