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Paterno statue: Tear it down?

  • Demands for Joe Paterno statue's removal fill up social media
  • Release of Freeh report further damages coach's legacy
  • 7-foot statue has been rallying point during Penn St. scandal
Paterno statue: Tear it down?

Former FSU coach Bowden: Take the statue down

Former FSU coach Bowden: Take the statue down

As recently as early Thursday morning, people were still posing for photographs in front of the Joe Paterno statue outside Penn State's football stadium.

Hours later, there were calls for that very statue to be torn down.

The 7-foot bronze sculpture has served as a rallying point throughout the Penn State scandal. It was mobbed by Nittany Lion supporters in the immediate aftermath of the accusations against Sandusky, then served as a somber collection point for flowers and memories after Paterno's death.

But now? Many people see the statue as something else entirely -- a towering, 900-pound reminder of the university's shame and young victims' unspeakable suffering. Or a false idol built to honor a man who, according to the Freeh report, "failed to take any action" even though he was allegedly aware Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing children.

Former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden, who knew Paterno well on and off the field, told HLN's Ryan Smith that he believes the statue needs to come down. 

"Every time Penn State played a ball game or every time they televised that stadium (with) 100,000 people in the stands, those cameras are going to go to that statue," Bowden said. "They're going to talk about Joe, but they're not going to talk about those two national championships and the great record he had. They're going to talk about Sandusky."

Demands to remove the statue were also filling up social media feeds.

"Not sure the NCAA will do or feels like it can do anything with Penn State, but pretty sure the Paterno statue has to come down," tweeted sports business reporter Darren Rovell in the minutes after the release of Louis Freeh's blistering report condemning Penn State's leaders for concealing alleged sexual abuses committed by Jerry Sandusky.

"Imagine what a statement Penn State would make if they took Paterno’s statue down this afternoon," Rovell followed up.

The NFL Network's Albert Breer tweeted that "I feel like a lot of us gave Joe Paterno the benefit of the doubt early on. Now? I don't know how they can leave that statue up on campus."

After CNN obtained a series of emails indicating Paterno and crew had been well aware of Sandusky's actions, CBS Sports' Greg Doyel wrote the statue must be brought down "because otherwise Penn State would be celebrating a man who helped talk school officials into leaving Jerry Sandusky alone in 2001, letting an alleged pedophile escape detection for another decade, giving that alleged pedophile -- and it's not "alleged" anymore -- unfettered access to campus for another decade." He then suggests the statue be melted down into the prison bars which will keep Sandusky locked up.

The statue's future had been debated previously as well. In November, Penn State officially responded to rumors that it would be torn down, saying "No university officials have discussed the statue in the last 10 days."

And now, as then, there is no official indication the school has decided or even discussed the likelihood that Paterno's statue remain standing.

Though there is precedent for such a legacy-erasing decision. Last year, the former coach's name was scrubbed from the trophy awarded to the Big Ten football champions. The former Paterno-Stagg Championship Trophy is now known simply as The Stagg Championship Trophy

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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