Six and a half years after Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested and charged in connection with rampant sexual assault of young children, the Nittany Lions community is still litigating who knew what when.
On Monday, a group of nearly 300 Penn State football players who played under Joe Paterno released a statement criticizing HBO’s new feature film Paterno for its portrayal of the coach. Via Yahoo:
“As Penn State Lettermen, there was never a question that one day we would see a movie made about Joe Paterno, one that showcased his impact on the game of football, on Penn State University and, on the thousands of men he coached and mentored over his 61-year career.
“Sadly — and wrongly — HBO’s ‘Paterno’ is not that movie. It has been described by producer Barry Levinson as a work of fiction, which is likely the only truth in the entire project. Incredibly, in making the movie, Levinson and his team never consulted a single person who was close to, worked with, or was coached by Joe Paterno. Not even family members or us, who undoubtedly knew him best of all.
“As a result, this uninformed depiction of Joe fails in every manner about the man we knew and loved. Deviously using ‘fiction’ as his shield, Levinson takes shameless liberties about the Sandusky scandal and Joe’s knowledge of it that would certainly be proven libelous if Joe were alive today.
“As a coach, educator and philanthropist, Joe Paterno was a positive force in our lives, molding us not only to win games, but to win in life. His character, integrity, and moral compass will live on in us long after the ill-gotten ratings of this reckless attempt at entertainment fades away.”
Paterno’s legacy has been the subject of much debate ever since the Sandusky scandal broke. Here are the basic facts of the coach’s involvement:
** Graduate assistant Mike McQueary told Paterno in 2001 that he had witnessed Sandusky abusing a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State showers.
** Paterno reported the claim to his boss, but the university failed to notify police.
** Later, when Sandusky’s abuses became public, the Pennsylvania state police commissioner said that Paterno had fulfilled his legal obligations but not necessarily his moral ones.
** On November 9, 2011, the Penn State board of trustees voted to terminate Paterno’s contract, and the coach died the following January.
As for the representation of Paterno in the HBO film, here’s what Awful Announcing’s Ben Koo wrote last week:
Is it fair?
I’d say so, although I’m sure many diehard Paterno loyalists (as well as many still disgusted with the handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal) will take issue with the film, thinking it is either too condemning or not condemning enough. I think the culpability of Paterno and others was portrayed pretty fairly in the film. However, there are a few scenes that sway the film away from being a tad bit sympathetic to Paterno to insinuating Paterno’s shortcomings intervening were more significant than what’s portrayed throughout the majority of the film.
In a statement released ahead of the documentary’s premiere, the Paterno family said that “numerous scenes, events and dialogue [in the film] bear no resemblance to what actually transpired.”