Joe Paterno Praises The Black Athlete

Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno said that black athletes have “changed the whole tempo of the game.”

Paterno: ‘The black athlete has made a big difference’ (ESPN)

A week after Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry was publicly reprimanded for insensitive comments about black athletes, Joe Paterno did not shy away from the topic of race during Tuesday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference.

At one point, the topic of the teleconference turned to the increased scoring in the Big Ten this season. After first mentioning that improved indoor practice facilities have helped the conference recruit kids from warm-weather climates, Paterno offered a supplemental explanation. “You have to be careful the way you say things sometimes,” the Penn State coach said. “Poor [Air Force coach] Fisher DeBerry got in trouble, but the black athlete has made a big difference. They have changed the whole tempo of the game. Black athletes have just done a great job as athletes and as people in turning the game around.”

Last week, after a 48-10 loss to TCU, DeBerry noted that TCU “had a lot more Afro-American players than we did and they ran a lot faster than we did. “Afro-American kids can run very well. That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can’t run, but it’s very obvious to me that they run extremely well.” DeBerry was reprimanded by Air Force’s superintendent and issued a public apology for his remarks.

I suspect JoePa will escape criticism. Indeed, the comments were made three days ago at a press conference and this is the first I’m hearing of them.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. RJN says:

    Bad times when a coach can not tell the truth without all this fuss. How were Fisher DeBerry’s comments racist? I can understand that his remarks begged the question “Where are all the black kids at the Air Force Academy, and why aren’t they playing football”? So what.

    We are growing an oppressive zeitgeist when remarks like DeBerry’s are verboten.

  2. JoePa is a Penn State institution. The Penn State Atheletic department doesn’t touch him – ever. So yeah, he’ll escape criticism. He’s already escaped criticism from his supposed superiors for several straight losing seasons prior to this one – he’s pretty much untouchable.