The once impeccable legacy of the late Joe Paterno continued to get hammered Thursday, first with the much-anticipated release of the Freeh Report followed by afternoon news that the Joe Paterno Child Development Center on the Nike campus in Beaverton, Ore., would be renamed.
News of the building no longer bearing the name of the legendary Penn State head football coach was first tweeted by sports business reporter Darren Rovell. The center was originally named after Paterno in November 2011 just days after his former assistant Jerry Sandusky was arrested for sexually abusing young boys. In recent weeks, reports have linked Paterno with a massive university-wide cover-up of the scandal to maintain the reputation of the football program.
On Nov. 18, the Oregonian reported that Nike had no plans to rename the facility in light of the Sandusky scandal but would "continue to monitor the situation closely." Today's Freeh Report, which pointed the finger squarely at the university and the athletic department for its role in the cover-up, seems to have pushed Nike from monitoring to action.
Nike CEO and President Mark Parker released a statement on the company's website on Thursday afternoon, expressing his concern over the news in today's report.
"I have been deeply saddened by the news coming out of this investigation at Penn State. It is a terrible tragedy that children were unprotected from such abhorrent crimes," Parker said in the statement. "With the findings released today, I have decided to change the name of our child care center at our World Headquarters. My thoughts are with the victims and the Penn State community."
Nike founder Phil Knight had been a staunch defender of Paterno since the information about Sandusky first publicly surfaced in early November and made a passionate showing of his defense during Paterno's funeral in January.
"…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," Knight said while eulogizing his friend. "The matter was in the hands of a world-class university, and by a president with an outstanding national reputation."
Knight added, "...this much is clear to me. If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno."
Knight received a standing ovation for his comments, which at the time were embraced by many who thought Paterno had been unjustly fired.
Six months later, even Knight had to acknowledge his mentor's failings.
"Other than my parents, my college coach, Bill Bowerman, was the biggest influence in my life. Bill Bowerman and Joe Paterno shared some great qualities," Knight said in a statement. "Throughout Joe Paterno's career, he strived to put young athletes in a position to succeed and win in sport but most importantly in life. Joe influenced thousands of young men to become better leaders, fathers and husbands.
"According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences. I missed that Joe missed it, and I am extremely saddened on this day. My love for Joe and his family remains."
The facility currently provides care for roughly 200 children, all under the age of 5 years old. When asked by Yahoo! Sports what name the facility will go by forthwith and if there is a plan to rename the facility, a Nike spokesperson said, "We have no further comment."
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