Ashton Kutcher, Franco Harris and Others Support Joe Paterno After His Firing

Not everyone has condemned the actions of Joe Paterno. Nina Strochlic looks at those who don’t want their beloved JoePa go.

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Franco Harris

After a visit to his former coach, former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris told reporters he didn’t understand why Paterno was being portrayed in such a negative light. “Joe did what was right for him to do. He forwarded the information to his superiors,” the Penn State alum said. The comments supporting Paterno, who was fired for failing to report the sexual abuse to the police, quickly put Harris out of favor. The next day, a casino and race track that he was recently hired to do public appearances for, decided to “put their business relationship [with Harris] on hold.”

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Mike Krzyzewski

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski stirred up controversy when he weighed in on the scandal plaguing the Penn State coach. In a confusing defense, he noted that, “One thing you have to understand is that coach Paterno's 84 years old.” He was quick to say that wasn’t an excuse for his behavior, but then added, “[In] the cultures that he's been involved in both footballwise and socially, [there] have been immense changes and how social issues are handled in those generations are quite different.” Unless sexually abusing young boys was an accepted part of football culture in Paterno’s days, Krzyzewski’s points don’t seem to ring true.

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Penn State students

The firing of Penn State’s legendary coach left the school with a student body divided. When the school board announced last Wednesday night that Paterno had been deposed, thousands of angry students rushed downtown, hoisting signs like “JoePa forever” and “Paterno is not the victim.” The police couldn’t control the furious crowd, who shattered car windows, tore down two street lamps, and overturned a parked news van. “Of course we’re going to riot,” one student told The New York Times. “What do they expect when they tell us at 10 o’clock that they fired our football coach?”

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Henry Burris

Canadian Football League quarterback Henry Burris got into a heated Twitter war with former professional ice-hockey player and sexual-abuse victim, Theoren Fleury. Burris, who plays for the Calgary Stampeders tweeted, “Everyone reacting as if Joe Paterno was in the shower!!” last week after the scandal broke. Fleury, who’s now a public activist against sexual abuse, shot back: “So protocol take[s] precedence over a kid being sodomized in the shower.” The exchange didn’t stop there. “Anyone can say they saw smthng,” Harris responded. Soon after, he relented, thanking Fluery over Twitter for making his points, and agreeing that Paterno and other Penn State officials should have dealt with the issue better.

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The Joe Paterno Child Development Center

Sportswear giant Nike got some heat after announcing that it would not rename the now-ironic Joe Paterno Child Development Center, a day-care center on its campus in Beaverton, Ore. Other affiliated organizations distanced themselves from Penn State and its disgraced former coach, but not Nike, who also stuck with troubled stars Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods. “Our relationship with Penn State remains unchanged," a Nike spokeswoman said. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

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Ashton Kutcher

The king of Twitter made a fatal mistake when he posted a quick reaction to hearing Paterno had been fired. He sent this to more than 8 million followers: "How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste," He quickly retracted the tweet, saying he had only seen a headline about Paterno’s firing and didn’t know the background. Kutcher, who has a foundation dedicated to eradicating child sexual exploitation, took the mistake seriously. He apologized profusely, announced he would no longer be tweeting and handed the responsibility over to his publicity team.