Joe Paterno Memorial Service Speech Calls Out the Bigger Penn State Problem (VIDEO)


phil knight
Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight
The friends, family members and colleagues who spoke at Joe Paterno's memorial service faced a unique, unenviable challenge: To appropriately pay tribute to the legendary Penn State coach in the wake of the scandal that ended his career shortly before he died from lung cancer at the age of 85.

Thankfully, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight was there to lead the way. His defense of Paterno was more than heartfelt, beyond eloquent.

His words made a valid case for, if not Paterno's innocence, his genuinely conflicted state:

"It turns out [Paterno] 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 continued:

"This much is clear to me. If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno."

More from The Stir: Joe Paterno's Legacy Should Reflect Both His Victories & Mistakes

Of course Paterno could have done more to help Jerry Sandusky's victims. But Joe Paterno wasn't the only authority figure at Penn State who could have done more. President Graham Spanier was also fired as a result of the scandal, but Spanier is hardly the household name Paterno was. And so the majority of the blame fell to the disgraced coach.

Judging by the standing ovation Knight received, there were -- and are -- many who feel Paterno shouldered more than his fair share of the guilt. Most of all Paterno's son, Jay, who shared the last words he whispered to his dying father:

"Dad, you won. You did all you could do. You've done enough. We all love you. We won. You can go home now."

Have your feelings about Joe Paterno changed since his death?

Image via msnbc

Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

coaches, football, college sports, scandal


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

nonmember avatar Shelly

No. He told ONE guy and never asked about it again. He SAW Sandusky with boys after that. If you ask me what was more important to him, football, the organization's reputation, protecting the school, or innocent boys. I would tell you innocent boys were last on that list. It's a disgrace. He COULD have and SHOULD have done more. He did not. His legacy should forever be marred, because of that. (As well as everyone else who didn't do enough.) I simply can't understand anyone defending his actions, or lack there of.

Mandago Mandago

I agree with Shelly. Someone doesn't stop being despicable because they died.

nonmember avatar GMM

Blaming is always easier than understanding. Sexual abuse is a heinous act, and it is, in my experience, one of the chief causes of mental illness. Joe Paterno was not the perpetrator, nor did he turn a blind eye to what had occurred. He trusted that the people he informed to take care of the situation. Should he have done more?; sure, by his own admission. Our eyesight is always keenest when looking backward with you are Joe Paterno or an average Joe.

I have to imagine, since Joe is not here to defend himself, that he was embarrassed and ashamed of what happened. At worst, he was in denial as most people tend to be when they hear about sexual abuse. From his generation, sexual abuse was something that was not discussed, especially when priests were perpetrators. Sexual abuse is still occurring, and I hope that what has occurred at Penn State will keep the subject in the public eye.

We should be careful to ensure that the victims are afforded treatment, and the perpetrators are brought to justice. Blaming Joe Paterno is not appropriate, and it is quite nearsighted to judge him as a whole person by this particular situation. I would suggest channeling your anger toward helping to prevent sexual abuse and providing aid to survivors of any age.

Waltz... WaltzingMtilda

Well said GMM.

And I can honestly say that my feelings about JoePa have NOT changed since his death, because I have always felt there was a rush to judgement by an administration that was keen to scapegoat the most visible figure in the situation.

Rest in Peace, Joe.

bills... billsfan1104

Totally agree with WaltzingMtilda and GMM.  GMM said it best. 

JoMeara JoMeara

GMM, nobody is blaming Joe for what happened. People are upset that a man of his calibur & reputation for leading YOUNG impressionable men should have had the sense enough to know that a simple conversation with his boss, that only resulted with Joe removing Sandusky's keys to the locker room was not enough. I am sure he never thought that he would ever have to face a situation like this in his life, but the reality of the situation was he did. In hindsight, he was only wishing he did more because he got caught, I do not believe he ever felt any remorse or pain for those alleged victims, he was COA, over an issue he gave no more thought too the minute he told the university president. But on a seperate note, NIKE has forever lost me as a customer.

A funeral is for grieving friends & family members to remember their loved one in a positive way, that Nike CEO should have gotten his ass kicked off the stage, that was not the appropriate venue to make a statement about current affairs.

TAG_u... TAG_ur_it

he DIDN'T do all he could do, he certainly didn't do ENOUGH and i don't know how he went to sleep at night.   he should have done everything in his power to make sure it stopped.  he should have gone directly to the police and made sure something was done about it.  make noise until the abuser is behind bars.   this guy makes me sick.  anyone who supports this asshole should be shot.  so what if he's a great coach? he's a horrible human being and is now where he belongs.  sandusky should join him.  the sooner the better. only his demise should come about by way of repeated anal trauma. every single person who was involved in this should be in jail at the very least.  they looked that guy in the face every day, knowing what he did and continued doing.  sick sick sick.  i have no pity for anyone but the victims. and paterno is no victim. 

nonmember avatar Elizabeth

It outrages me to see a site dedicated to mothers making excuses for Paterno. Joe Paterno was a man of immense power and prestige, who failed to do his UTMOST to stop a child rapist. If it were your child, would you have been satisfied with him doing only his minimum legal duty?

And this Phil Knight eulogy is just insult to injury. But then again how many young lives have been destroyed in Nike sweatshops? Men of power harm children and some of you make excuses for them or worse, cheer them on.

DebaLa DebaLa


GMM's tempered assessment of Paterno and explanation of sexual abuse does not include the second, and equally (if not, more) important component: BETRAYAL. There's always someone in authority that knew, and didn't follow thru 'til the INNOCENT ones were moved out of harm's way. 

YES, he did do his minimum required reporting. YES, he's a product of his generation. But he knows in his heart of hearts he fell far short of what was RIGHT. THAT is why he CHECKED OUT. He could not face what was to come. Does it negate his awesome rep and record as a sports coach... NO. That is separate, and has NOTHING to do with HIS part in why the years of damage to young lives and their families went unchecked.

PS: I think he was diagnosed earlier with lung cancer, but only publicized it on advice of his attorneys for the intended effect it clearly had.

PPS: We need to stop idolizing sports figures and their institutions. It is the same rampant hypnosis that makes it easy to draw parallels to generations of Catholic Archdiocese abuse cases.


MrsKi... MrsKillpeople

Joe Paterno is no saint. He cared more about his job than the well being of fellow human beings. He went and told his superior so he had something to soothe his conscience when it pricked him at night. It was easier to say 'I did what I was supposed to do, it's out of my hands now,' and look the other way than it was to do what was right. His death does not change that he decided to take the easy way out and was a coward. His ambivalence caused just as much harm as the man who abused those children, and to pretend anything else is disgusting.

1-10 of 22 comments 123 Last