Nike co-founder Phil Knight issued a statement blasting the Freeh report's characterization of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno in the child sex-abuse scandal involving assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

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BEAVERTON, Ore. — Nike co-founder Phil Knight has issued a statement blasting the Freeh report’s characterization of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno in the child sex-abuse scandal involving ex-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Shortly after the release last year of former FBI director Louis Freeh’s report, Knight issued a statement saying he was saddened Paterno apparently made missteps that led to “heartbreaking consequences.”

But Knight has changed his viewpoint. After seeing a critique commissioned by the Paterno family and carried out by people including Dick Thornburgh, a former governor of Pennsylvania and U.S. attorney general, Knight said he might have jumped to conclusions.

In a statement released Monday, Knight called the findings of the Freeh report unjustified and unsubstantiated. Knight also criticized the NCAA’s subsequent sanctions on Penn State’s football program as unwarranted.

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“When this tragic story first unfolded Joe cautioned all of us to slow down and carefully gather the facts before jumping to conclusions,” Knight, 74, 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, including attacks on children inside Penn State athletics facilities.

Paterno was fired in November 2011 and 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 in Beaverton. According to ESPN, Paterno earned millions in endorsement contracts from Nike.

The Freeh report concluded 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.”

Paterno’s family released the review of Freeh’s investigation Sunday. The findings were posted on the website

NCAA penalties against Penn State included a four-year bowl ban, scholarship cuts and a $60 million fine.

“The NCAA acted outside its charter and rendered judgment absent any kind of investigation or judicial hearing. It was simply grandstanding,” Knight said.


Ken Feinberg, the lawyer brought in by Penn State to help settle Sandusky-related claims, said he recently gave university officials monetary-settlement offers from most of the people who asserted they were molested by the former assistant coach.

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