STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- A leader from the women's rights group
NOW has asked Joe Paterno to resign over comments the Penn State
football coach made about an alleged sexual assault.
Joanne Tosti-Vasey, president of the National Organization for
Women in Pennsylvania, said Sunday that she was "appalled" by
Paterno's comments last week and that they represent an
institutional insensitivity that endangers women.
Paterno's remarks came a day before the Orange Bowl, when a
reporter asked about Florida State linebacker A.J. Nicholson, who
was accused of sexual assault and sent home before Tuesday's game.
Paterno replied by talking about past suspensions of Penn State
players. He then added: "There's some tough -- there's so many
people gravitating to these kids. He may not have even known what
he was getting into, Nicholson. They knock on the door; somebody
may knock on the door; a cute girl knocks on the door. What do you
"Geez. I hope -- thank God they don't knock on my door because
I'd refer them to a couple of other rooms," Paterno continued.
"But that's too bad. You hate to see that. I really do. You like
to see a kid end up his football career. He's a heck of a football
player, by the way; he's a really good football player. And it's
just too bad."
Tosti-Vasey issued a news release calling for Paterno to
apologize and step down from the post he has held for 40 years. She
sent an e-mail to Paterno and the university president the next
day, but said Sunday she has not heard back from either.
"Allegations of sexual assault should never be taken lightly,"
the statement reads. "Making light of sexual assault sends the
message that rape is something to be expected and accepted."
Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon said Sunday that Paterno's
comments were taken out of context. A spokeswoman at the NOW
headquarters in Washington said the organization's president, Kim
Gandy, supports the call for Paterno's resignation.
Guido D'Elia, communications director for Penn State football,
said Paterno made his remarks in the larger context of distractions
in the bowl-game environment. Nor, he said, did Paterno intend to
make light of the assault allegations.
"I think if you were present, you understood he meant no
malice," D'Elia said Saturday. "If you heard his tone, he really
thought it was too bad for everybody. He was concerned for
No charges have been filed against Nicholson, although police in
Florida said the matter remains open.
Tosti-Vasey said Sunday that Paterno's comments are the latest
in a series of insensitive actions by the university's athletic
department. The Pennsylvania NOW branch criticized the university
in 2003 after a football player accused of sexual assault was
allowed to play in a bowl game.
Last year, former Penn State women's basketball player Jennifer
Harris started a discrimination complaint against coach Rene
Portland, claiming that she was harassed by the coach to change her
appearance because she was not "feminine enough."