JENSEN: Keep Joe Paterno statue in storage

Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

Anyone who wants the Paterno statue back up ... please, just stop.

To claim that Joe Paterno can't rebut any of these decades-old allegations, with more just unsealed Tuesday, is true and so obviously beside the point. The allegations create dark questions, and those dark questions will never go away.

FILE - In this Aug. 6, 1999, file photo, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, right, poses with his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, during the college football team's media day in State College.

Stand with Paterno if you must, but understand you're now standing against a man who claimed he went to Penn State's head coach at a Penn State football camp in 1976, stating in a 2014 deposition - yes, almost four decades later - that he told Paterno as a 14-year-old how Jerry Sandusky, a member of Paterno's staff, had inserted his finger into the teenager's anus. Yes, that teenager is a John Doe, but he exists.

While the statue is far from a central issue - Penn State paid out $93 million to more than 30 Sandusky accusers since 2013 - statues are powerful symbols, meant to last, so let's not disregard the issue.

Here's what the sculptor himself, Angelo Di Maria, told me in 2012 about whether his work should stay up: "I have to say, I can't be so bold, because I'm the artist, that I want it [to stay] up. That's what the public would expect me to think. I have to be clear with my conscience. I would go along with any just decision that is made. Not only am I compelled to take the side of the victims, but I consider also the feeling of the kids who went [to Penn State], who have such a high regard for State College."

To the former football players who recently organized trying to get the statue back up, your bedrock belief in Joe Paterno won't make allegations against him disappear. You know this, of course. The unsealed testimony doesn't just indict Paterno. There was a 2015 deposition in which former assistant Mike McQueary testified that two more former Penn State assistants, Tom Bradley and Greg Schiano, seemed to claim some knowledge of Sandusky doing improper things, although the details aren't clear.

This is tough stuff for these men - good luck refuting allegations that don't have all the specifics attached. Just the simple act of having their name in the testimony is enough to remind everyone why Penn State needed to hire someone completely from the outside to replace Paterno, and why that still needs to be.

Anybody who ever worked at Penn State near Sandusky during his years there is forever tainted, whatever their knowledge or lack of knowledge, fair or not.

Of course, with Paterno, the taint is far worse when you have an allegation that Paterno responded to the 14-year-old by saying, "I don't want to hear about any of that stuff. I have a football season to worry about."

The Paterno family and other defenders are absolutely correct to say that Paterno didn't get a chance to answer the incendiary charge and never will. Nobody denies this. Today is another of those days during which you can stand with Paterno or leave open the possibility that an accuser is telling the awful truth. But good luck finding middle ground.

Just please keep that statue away in storage, in some dark place.