Nike pulls Joe Paterno name off child care center

Nike officials say the Joe Paterno Child Development Center, a child care facility at the company's headquarters, will be renamed. Nike CEO Phil Knight said "Joe [Paterno] made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences."

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
CEO Phil Knight spoke in support of Joe Paterno at a memorial service for former Penn State football coach in State College, Penn., in January of this year. After former FBI chief Louis Freeh's report onthe Penn State sex abuse scandal, Nike has decided to change the name of the Joe Paterno child care center.

The president of Nike Inc. said Thursday he has decided to change the name of the Joe Paterno Child Development Center, a child care facility at the company's headquarters outside Portland.

Nike chief executive Mark Parker said he was deeply saddened by the news coming of the Louis Freeh investigation on the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State. Freeh says Paterno and other top school officials disregarded the welfare of Jerry Sandusky's victims as they failed to report abuse allegations against the longtime assistant coach.

"It is a terrible tragedy that children were unprotected from such abhorrent crimes," Parker said.

Nike founder Phil Knight defended Paterno at the coach's memorial service in January: "If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation, and not in Joe Paterno's response."

As The Christian Science Monitor reported, that remark drew a standing ovation from the crowd of 12,000 — with Paterno's widow, Sue, and former defensive coordinator, Tom Bradley, among those rising to their feet.

But on Thursday, Knight released a statement saying: "Throughout Joe Paterno's career, he strived to put young athletes in a position to succeed and win in sport but most importantly in life. Joe influenced thousands of young men to become better leaders, fathers and husbands. According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences. I missed that Joe missed it, and I am extremely saddened on this day. My love for Joe and his family remains."

Nike has not released a new name for the Joe Paterno Child Development Center, which opened in the early 1990s and was remodeled in 2008. Company officials did not respond to requests for more information about the center or its new name.

The company is known for naming its buildings after sports figures including Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Nolan Ryan and Mike Schmidt. Nike's headquarters is located on Bowerman Drive, named for Bill Bowerman, Knight's track and field coach at the University of Oregon who co-founded the athletic-wear giant.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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