Have you heard that The Meadows Racetrack and Casino fired Franco Harris as one of its duo of pitchmen (along with Rocky Bleier)? He was fired because of his vocal support of Joe Paterno, for whom Harris played at Penn State. Well, it gets even better. The Lukester has gotten involved. It's always fun to hear from his moral compass.
Pittsburgh Promise defends Franco Harris
Mayor calls on former Steelers great to step down as chairman
Thursday, November 17, 2011
By Eleanor Chute and Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise today defended ex-Steeler Franco Harris after Mayor Luke Ravenstahl demanded Mr. Harris resign as board chairman because of statements regarding the Penn State sex abuse scandal.
Saleem Ghubril, the executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise, said Mr. Harris is a "dedicated and respected" leader of the scholarship program.
Mr. Harris, who played football at Penn State under Joe Paterno decades ago, said Penn State was wrong to fire the famed coach because Mr. Paterno did what he was legally required to do in 2002 by informing a superior about allegations that an assistant coach had sexually assaulted a boy in a campus shower.
Mr. Harris issued a statement later today, saying he was greatly saddened that his personal opinions about a friend and mentor had been interpreted as a disregard for the victims of the alleged abuse.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "My heart aches for those young people and their families who were violated in the deplorable events at Penn State.
"Those who know me will be aware that during my many years of public service to the Pittsburgh regional community I have held steadfastly to the conviction that the protection and well-being of our children are paramount," he said.
He said he has attempted to "place the victims and their families at the forefront of my concerns while questioning the seeming rush to judgment in the treatment of Joe, who I know is deeply pained and distraught by events now under investigation at Penn State."
Mr. Harris indicated he has no intention of stepping down, saying the Promise's greatest potential lies ahead and as chairman "my mission is far from complete ... I aim to see the Promise's potential fulfilled."
Neither the mayor nor his spokeswoman, Joanna Doven, could be reached for comment today.
But in an email to Promise board members Wednesday evening, the mayor pointed to what he said was Mr. Harris' statement saying Penn State trustees failed to give Mr. Paterno the backing he needed.
"I had to re-read it several times to fully comprehend the callous disregard and indifference for the victims of sexual abuse at Penn State," Mr. Ravenstahl stated in the email.
"To so adamantly and vocally defend one man while maintaining silence for those powerless to defend themselves, shows me that you are the wrong man to represent the Pittsburgh Promise and the ideals it embodies.
"When I personally asked you to join the Board of the Pittsburgh Promise, I had every confidence that you would exercise sound judgment in your public life. Sadly, these statements show no regard whatsoever for the well-being of the young victims of sexual abuse and have led me to question your position of trust with the Pittsburgh Promise as Board Chairman.
"It is my ethical and moral responsibility to recognize that you are no longer a suitable representative for any organization, let alone ours, and demand that you resign immediately from the Board of the Pittsburgh Promise."
The Promise board of directors is expected to discuss the matter at its meeting tonight, and Mr. Ghubril said the organization would have no further comment about the mayor's remarks until after that session.
Mr. Ghubril said today that Mr. Harris has shown "compassionate and dedicated mentorship to our students, and (worked) as a tireless advocate of the program within our region and beyond.
"His integrity in all aspects of his service to The Promise is unquestionable," Mr. Ghubril said.
Penn State officials including Mr. Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier, who stepped down by mutual agreement, faced growing criticism over Penn State's failure to alert law enforcement to allegations that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted a boy in a campus shower in 2002.