Joe Paterno's Family Must Realize Penn State Scandal Is Not About Them

Dan Levy@danlevythinksNational Lead WriterJuly 22, 2012

Joe Paterno's statue was removed from Beaver Stadium on Sunday. The decision came from Penn State president Rodney Erickson, who said the statue "has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing." 

In response, the Paterno family put out their own statement—the latest in a series of statements from the descendant of an embattled former icon—to claim the removal of the statue won't serve the victims. Clearing JoePa's name, per his family, will.

The Paterno statement specifically states that "the only way to help the victims is to uncover the full truth," before outlining in six paragraphs the specific reasons why the Freeh report has unfairly condemned Paterno. 

While the Paterno family might have some understandable reasons to defend Paterno, that doesn't mean it needs to take every opportunity to try to publicly clear the name of a man whose legacy has been so visibly tarnished.

Give it a day. Give it a week. Give it a year. Nothing anyone with the last name Paterno has to say right now is in any way helping the legacy of their patriarch. Or the actual victims.

When the Freeh report first came out, the Paterno family felt the need to announce they were conducting their own investigation, asserting the Freeh report was filled with conjecture and opinion masked as fact.

One can see why the Paterno family is on the offense with their defense of JoePa. There has been so much coverage of Paterno—perhaps more than Jerry Sandusky himself—that people might think he's the molester. Others, in light of the Freeh Report and Paterno's past admissions, think what Paterno did is tantamount to abuse.

Now, on the day Paterno's statue is removed from the foot of the stadium he helped build, the family felt the need—again—to defend his name by claiming the only way for the victims to truly heal is for the truth to come out about Paterno's involvement in a cover-up. 

It sure does read like the Paterno family thinks Joe is the biggest victim in this whole ordeal.

Last week, I mentioned on Twitter that it feels like we lost the point of the Sandusky case if we have become more worried about Penn State football getting the death penalty than Sandusky himself.

That's what this Paterno statue story feels like as well: a completely sanitized distraction from the real story.

There are more angles to this situation than just Sandusky, one must admit. NCAA president Mark Emmert and the brass in State College are ready to lower a hammer down on the football program that ESPN's Joe Schad claims could be "more damaging long-term than 'death penalty', " and there are still other members of the Penn State hierarchy who have yet to face the reckoning Paterno has posthumously been handed.

The Paterno family is understandably upset with the way the last few months have been handled, but they have to take ownership of the fact that much of this could have been avoided had Joe handled the situation better from the start.

The removal of Paterno's statue was surely about him—in this whole process, it has admittedly been the one act since his termination the most about him—but his family had a chance today to show they have the real victims in mind by keeping quiet and not trying to make the decision by the current Penn State administration to remove Paterno's statue into a story about them.

The great irony in all of this is that the Paterno family's inability to acquiesce is doing more harm to JoePa's legacy. If they really wanted it to be about the victims, at some point, they have to realize they aren't them. Instead, they keep doing more harm to everyone involved.