BEAVERTON, Ore. – Nike co-founder Phil Knight has issued a statement blasting the Freeh report’s characterization of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in the child sex abuse scandal involving assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Following the release last year of former FBI director Louis Freeh’s report, Knight issued a statement saying he was saddened that Paterno apparently made missteps that led to “heartbreaking consequences.”
But Knight now says he may have jumped to conclusions, after a new critique commissioned by the Paterno family and carried out by experts that included Dick Thornburgh, a former U.S. attorney general and governor of Pennsylvania.
In a statement released Monday, Knight called the findings of the Freeh report unjustified and unsubstantiated. He also criticized the NCAA’s subsequent sanctions on Penn State’s football program as unwarranted.
“When this tragic story first unfolded, Joe cautioned all of us to slow down and carefully gather the facts before jumping to conclusions,” Knight said in the statement. “We owed it to the victims, he said, to get to the truth. It was counsel we all should have followed.”
Sandusky, 69, is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term for the sexual abuse of 10 boys over a period of 15 years.
Paterno died in January 2012 at age 85. Knight spoke at Paterno’s memorial service, but after the Freeh report was released he took the name off the Joe Paterno Child Development Center at Nike headquarters.
The Freeh report concluded that Paterno and other university officials covered up allegations against Sandusky to spare the university bad publicity. But the family’s review said the cover-up claims were inaccurate, unfounded and equated to a “rush to injustice.”
Freeh said he stands by his report.