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Nike's Phil Knight: Paterno No Villain in His Response to Sandusky Claims

on January 26, 2012 7:33 PM

Some made veiled references to the child-sexual-abuse charges and related fallout that enveloped Penn State in early November.

But no speakers took on the matter as forcefully as did Phil Knight, a co-founder and the chairman of Nike.

With remarks that immediately caught fire and lit up the Internet, Knight, in addressing the assembled Thursday at "A Memorial for Joe," questioned who is "the real trustee" at Penn State.

He called Joe Paterno his hero and said the former coach had not let him down.

When Paterno learned of sexual-misconduct concerns involving Jerry Sandusky, Knight said, Paterno gave "full disclosure to his superiors."

"The matter was in the hands of a world-class university and a president with an outstanding international reputation," Knight went on. "Whatever the details of the investigation are, this much is clear to me: There is a villain in this tragedy that lies in that investigation, not in Joe Paterno's response to it."

Still, Knight said, "for his actions, (Paterno) was excoriated by the media and fired over the telephone by his university. Yet in all his subsequent appearances in the press, on TV, interacting with students, conversing with hospital personnel, giving an interview to Sally Jenkins, he never complained, and he never lashed out. Every word, every bit of body language conveyed a single message: We are Penn State."

Those assembled for the memorial, held in the Bryce Jordan Center, gave a sustained standing ovation.

It was one of three standing ovations that Knight inspired in the group. He spoke at some length about his experiences with and regard for Paterno.

"Joe was my hero every day for 12 of the last 12 years," Knight said. (Video of his remarks is posted via Bing.)

More extensive coverage of the service is available via the links below.

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