Franco Harris loses job for comments supporting Joe Paterno
The former Pittsburgh Steeler running back is the latest person to lose his job in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, as The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington, Pa., announced Tuesday it was suspending its business relationship with the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee who played with the Nittany Lions from 1969 to 1971 under recently fired coach Paterno.
Harris, along with fellow former Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier, was hired by The Meadows in September to help with various outreach activities, charitable events and public appearances.
The Meadows issued this statement Tuesday night: "In light of the recent developments with Franco Harris regarding Joe Paterno’s dismissal, Franco and The Meadows have mutually decided to put their business relationship on hold at this time, while these matters are looked into further."
Paterno and university President Graham Spanier were fired Nov. 9 by Penn State's board of trustees as part of the fallout from the Sandusky scandal. Harris blasted the school for its treatment of the legendary coach.
”I feel that the board made a bad decision in letting Joe Paterno go,” Harris said. "I'm very disappointed in their decision. I thought they showed no courage, not to back someone who really needed it at the time. They were saying the football program under Joe was at fault.
”They really wouldn't give a reason. They're linking the football program to the scandal and, possibly, the cover-up. That's very disturbing to me.... I think there should be no connection to the football program, only in the case that it happened at the football building with an ex-coach. I'm still trying to find out who gave him access to the building, who signed that contract.”
Harris also is one of several high-profile athletes listed as an honorary director of The Second Mile charity, which was founded by Sandusky. Others include Cal Ripken Jr., Arnold Palmer and Andy Reid.
-- Chuck Schilken
Photo: Joe Paterno and Franco Harris in 2006. Credit: Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press