Group of Penn State lettermen call for return of Joe Paterno statue

Dr. Saturday
Workers removed the statue of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno on July 22, 2012. (AP Photo/John Beale)
Workers removed the statue of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno on July 22, 2012. (AP Photo/John Beale)

Update: July 5 – 4:15 p.m.

Penn State issued a statement in response to Tuesday morning’s letter.

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Original story: July 5 – 12:40 p.m.

A group of former Penn State football players is rallying for the return of the Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium.

In a letter sent to PSU president Eric Barron and the school’s board of trustees Tuesday, more than 200 Nittany Lion lettermen urged that the statue of Paterno, PSU’s longtime head coach, be returned to its former location outside Beaver Stadium. In the letter, the former players also called for a “formal apology” to Sue Paterno, the wife of the late coach who died in January 2012 at age 85 of lung cancer.

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Players spanning from the 1950’s to the 2010’s signed the letter, including John Cappelletti – the school’s lone Heisman Trophy winner. The full list of players, which includes seven players from the 50’s, 26 from the 60’s, 74 from the 70’s, 46 from the 80’s, 28 from the 90’s, 25 from the 2000’s, five from the 2010’s and eight former staff members, can be viewed here.

The letter can be read in full below:

We, the undersigned, are united by the common bond of having been a member of the Penn State Football Team. We state, unequivocally, that our program has always been one of integrity, honesty, and respect. Under Coach Paterno, we strove for academic excellence and made an ongoing commitment to becoming better men.

We remain saddened that the Penn State Administration and the Board of Trustees thrust our program and coach into an undeserved negative media frenzy in 2011. Nearly five years after the firestorm, they still have not defended us or corrected the false narrative. Our legacy and our university deserve better. Penn State’s leaders should take two steps toward repairing the damage that they created.

First, restore the statue of Coach Paterno and the players’ wall to where they stood previously outside Beaver Stadium. These testimonies to “Success with Honor” should never have been removed.

Second, a formal apology from the University to Sue Paterno needs to be issued. This is a common act of decency, which is both warranted and long overdue.

The university’s leaders have repeatedly stated a desire to restore unity to the Penn State community. We hope that they will not waste a great opportunity to do so.

Penn State removed the Paterno statue in July 2012 in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. Sandusky, an assistant under Paterno from 1969 to 1999, was convicted on 45 child sexual abuse charges in in June 2012. Paterno was removed as head coach in the days after Sandusky’s November 2011 arrest.

Following an investigation into the scandal – one that accused university leaders and Paterno of covering up Sandusky’s misdeeds – the NCAA stripped Paterno of 111 of his wins, among other heavy sanctions placed on the football program. The NCAA later opted to restore the wins, putting his win total back to 409, the most in FBS history. Other penalties levied by the NCAA, including a bowl ban and scholarship restrictions, were also rescinded.

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Brian Masella, who played tight end and punter for Paterno during the 70’s, is acting as a spokesman for the group.

“We have been told during the last four-plus years that the board and administration are waiting for the appropriate time to repair the damage they created,” he said in a statement. “Now is the appropriate time. Enough is enough!”

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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