Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
July 22, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Penn State Joe Paterno Statue Removal Photo


If you were tracking the social media on Sunday morning, surely you stumbled or tumbled across this TweetPic from It shows the famous Joe Paterno statue being hauled away. (Our Friday “key edits of the week” post actually included a shot of the statue captured in a way that strangely presaged Sunday’s action.)

Just afterwards, I came upon a tweet referencing the photo from Jim Roberts (@nytjim), the Managing Editor of the New York Times, that read:

Jim Roberts Paterno tweet

It seems clear from Jim’s takeaway (pardon the pun) he didn’t get the full anthropomorphic hit of the image. Now I wouldn’t go this far, but when I saw this snapshot of Joe Pa’s removal, what immediately crossed my mind is: He didn’t go willingly!

Of course, the finger in the air while “he’s being hauled off” reads like an act of pride — and defiance. (Still number one!) That, I have to imagine, is mostly what the die-hard defenders of the coach, and certainly, of the statue, are going to read in the picture. Especially for the former, the key to the photo is the tarp (or the blanket, actually). Akin to images stored in our brains of some target stolen away bound and hooded, what the photo stirs up for the faithful is nothing short of an abduction.

(photo 1: linked photo: Reuters/Al Iraqiya. Baghdad. December 30, 2006. file photo)

  • Matt

    can’t miss the stain cast on the wall by the statue’s shadow.

  • bystander

    What struck me as just weird, was all of the shrouding. Put up a chain link fence to keep people away from the removal area for their own safety?  Fine.  But, all the tarps and shrouds and curtains as if to hide the viewing eye from an exceptionally bloody car wreck.  It’s just weird.

  • Enoch Root

    Perp walk.

    • molly

      That’s what I thought, too.

  • robert e

    Funny that he’s again surrounded by a helmeted team. It’s as if the statue is dementedly thinking he’s walking off the field after a victory, surrounded by players. It’s even better with the tarp–aren’t blue and white the team colors?

    • robert e

      also resembles a prize fighter in hooded robe surrounded by his entourage

  • Nathan Rein

    Your link to “key edits of the week” is broken. 

    • bystander

       I think the link Michael had intended might be this one.

    • Michael Shaw

      That link should be fixed now. Thanks.

  • Scarabus

    On immediate first glance it looks as if the guy on the far left is holding a gun to the shrouded figure’s head.

  • bystander

    While the photograph at the top strikes me as weird, this one is downright eerie.  Hopefully, not prescient of what the NCAA plans to do with Penn’s football program.

    • Scarabus

      Terrific image, bystander,  but what it represents (literally, not symbolically) isn’t patently clear. What is it?

    • Michael Shaw

      That’s really haunting. My thanks, also. My association is actually to the abuse victims.

  • maveet

    Great photographic catch. This shroud was only on the statue 40 sec., then removed and replaced with a bigger clear plastic covering

  • bks3bks
  • T Perky

    I’m amazed no one compared it to Saddam’s silly statue felling and the flag on its face…good riddance to both disgusting dictators, both of whom had rape rooms in their legacy. Speaking of legacies, it looks like Penn State’s has been wiped from the map for the last 14 years. Good. 

  • Gasho

    The blue tarp also reminds me of Fukushima and there are some similarities. The figure and statue are clearly “radioactive” and “toxic”.

  • LanceThruster

    Maybe the imagery to the “faithful” is that of an abduction, but what it evoked for me was that of a perp who doesn’t want their face shown as they’re hauled away.

  • bystander

     I’m not sure I understand your question.  But, taking a stab at it, the original Paterno statue has 4 football players running behind him.  Apparently, those 4 players were affixed to the wall behind the Paterno free standing figure.  When the statue was removed, the 4 players were removed as well.  What remains from their removal is the ghost like outline of them on the wall where they were affixed.  In my imagination I wondered if that ghost image didn’t foreshadow the NCAA decision re: Penn’s football program.

  • bystander

     Well damn.  It didn’t foreshadow the ghosting of Penn’s program, but rather – in a sense – the players who were the basis for Paterno’s win record from 1998-2012.

  • Scarabus

     Now it makes sense. I didn’t know about the other part of the sculpture. Thanks!

Refresh Archives

Random Notes