The Penn State hockey team added a sticker with the number “409” to their helmets for Friday night’s game against Michigan State — a move designed to celebrate the fact that the NCAA last week reinstated the full number of wins earned by late Penn State football Coach Joe Paterno in his career.
Because the wins had been stripped by the NCAA as punishment for Paterno and the Penn State administration’s alleged role in covering up sexual abuse of children by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a leading child abuse victims’ advocacy group now wants the hockey team punished.
SNAP, a group set up to advocate for survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, called the “409” sticker a way for Penn State to “gloat” over the reinstated victories, at the expense of Sandusky’s victims, and others who have suffered at the hands of child sex abusers.
Paterno was fired by Penn State in November of 2011, after a legendary 45-year career as head football coach after an investigation found that he failed to take action when he learned of allegations that Sandusky sexually abused pre-teen boys.
He died in January of 2012 at age 85. The 409 wins on his record made Paterno the winningest coach in major college football history.
On Sunday, Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour apologized for the stickers via a post on her Twitter feed, calling the “409” display by the hockey players “inappropriate and offensive.”
On Monday, however, Barbour walked back the remarks in her Twitter message.
“This is far too important a subject to vet on a casual; or in social media,” she said in a radio interview. “I’ll use my own words. It was inappropriate and insensitive of me to do that from a tweet standpoint.”
But SNAP had no such reservations about slamming Penn State and its hockey team over the celebration of Paterno, calling the disgraced coach “a coward who refused to call police about suspected child sex crimes.”
“It’s wrong to keep honoring him and to rub even more salt into the already deep would of those assaulted by Jerry Sandusky and other child molesters,” said SNAP Director David Clohessy in a statement.
Clohessy dismissed Barbour’s claim that the hockey situation had been “corrected” because the players removed the “409” decals.
“The stickers may have been removed. But the harm remains,” Clohessy said. “Those who publicly gloat over the restoration of Paterno’s wins are immature, misguided and heartless. Shame on them. Penn State’s administration should stop tolerating and start punishing their hurtful actions.”
The NCAA took 112 football wins away from Penn State as punishment for the Sandusky scandal. Barbour said that though the hockey team will not wear “409” stickers again, the school will honor Paterno “over time.”