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Phil Knight reverses his judgment on Joe Paterno

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Nike co-founder Phil Knight is backpedaling from comments he made regarding his friend Joe Paterno now that the Paterno family has issued its own findings regarding the events surrounding Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse scandal.

In July, after the Freeh Report was released, Knight, who had been a staunch defender of Paterno, said that he was saddened by missteps Paterno had made.

"According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences," Knight said. "I missed that Joe missed it, and I'm extremely saddened on this day."

However Monday, Knight acknowledged in a statement that he hadn’t actually read the entire Freeh Report at the time he made those comments and that now, after reading it, he realized the report was not thorough.

"When I later took the time to do so, I was surprised to learn that the alarming allegations, which so disturbed the nation, were essentially theories and assertions rather than solid charges backed by solid evidence," Knight said in a statement to ESPN. "On reflection, I may have unintentionally contributed to a rush to judgment."

It’s no coincidence that Knight is doing an about-face less than 24 hours after the Paterno family released its findings. The Paterno Report discredits the accuracy of the Freeh Report and questions the NCAA’s authority to issue sanctions without due process.

"Additionally, the NCAA's actions are exposed as totally unwarranted," Knight said. "The NCAA acted outside its charter and rendered judgment absent any kind of investigation or judicial hearing. It was simply grandstanding."

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Paterno Report used to sue the NCAA, which acted unilaterally when it dolled out its harsh punishments to Penn State last summer.

Even though many will see the report as one-sided – it was, after all commissioned by the Paterno family – it does expose some major flaws in the Freeh Report and should give Paterno supporters at least some hope that Paterno’s good name can be restored.

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