Penn State commemorated the 50th anniversary of former Head Coach Joe Paterno’s debut Saturday afternoon in the Nittany Lions’ game against Temple.
The decision to honor a coach who knew about, yet failed to prevent Jerry Sandusky from sexual abusing children for decades, was obviously a controversial one. Sentiment on social media before the game was solidly against the university’s decision, but the tribute was well-received within the Penn State bubble.
The school’s celebration of Paterno consisted of video tributes that aired during breaks in play Saturday.
The Joe Paterno video played during the break pic.twitter.com/B9laZUrLNK
— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) September 17, 2016
Penn State fans cheered when the videos came on, but the Temple fans in the stadium turned their backs to the fanfare to symbolize Paterno turning his back on Sandusky’s victims.
In the nosebleeds, Temple fans, Paterno protestors have a sign that says, "He turned his back, so we'll turn ours." pic.twitter.com/HJdv2jI7yb
— Tom Hanslin (@tomhanslin) September 17, 2016
The backlash against the tributes extended well beyond the seats in Beaver Stadium.
— Bernie (@tbdtbh) September 17, 2016
The best way to honor Joe Paterno would be to not tell anyone that you're doing it
— Bobby Big Wheel (@BobbyBigWheel) September 17, 2016
In honor of Joe Paterno every fan in attendance today will receive a rug to sweep things under
— Ed Prandeski (@edprandeski) September 17, 2016
I tend to doubt giving Paterno's players opportunity to celebrate him is more important than risking upsetting Sandusky victims
— Marcus Hartman (@marcushartman) September 17, 2016
Outside the city limits of State College, Pennsylvania, the consensus on Paterno’s legacy seems to be that it is one not worth honoring. However, within those limits, the feeling is the opposite, and that does not appear to be changing with time. If anything, it seems to be growing stronger. A student editorial in the school’s student newspaper deriding the celebration was met with hundreds of negative emails and comments, many from alumni.
Reaction like that is a dispiriting reminder that for some, football trumps all, even the well being of dozens of children. However, it is encouraging to see that at least some within the Penn State bubble are in touch with reality and understand the problem with celebrating a man like Joe Paterno.