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Franco Harris fired from casino gig over his support of Joe Paterno

Nov 16, 2011, 11:05 AM EDT

Joe Paterno, Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell

As you know, Franco Harris played for Joe Paterno at Penn State in the late 1960s/early ’70s. You may not have known that he had been hired as a spokesman for The Meadows Race Track and Casino — a harness racing and slot machine casino in Washington County, Penn. Well, that job is no more (at least for now), after Harris made some controversial comments in support of Paterno in the wake of the coach’s firing. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

He said, “I feel that the board made a bad decision in letting Joe Paterno go. 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.”

As a result of this loyalty, the Meadows issued this statement yesterday:

“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.”

Wow, that’s some fancy wordsmithing there. Anyway, it rankles many that a person should be penalized for speaking his mind (see the Post-Gazette comments section). However, Harris’ was a spokesperson position, after all. I don’t know: all this really proves is that anything connected to the Penn State scandal is way too hot to touch right now.

Photo: That’s Paterno on the left, Harris middle, and Harris’ former Penn state teammate and Baltimore Colts running back Lydell Mitchell on the right.

H/T Bruce Feldman.

  1. mjbulls45 - Nov 16, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    why is he getting fired for his opinion , regardless of if he is right or wrong…

    hes just supporting his coach in a difficult time, and a time that our society has not really seen in sports…

    for all joe has done for franco, he was just being by his side when not many people are.

    is franco wrong? – maybe

    but he is right in one respect, loyalty, even if it is blindly, loyalty is loyalty.

    ps – i’m an old school football head, hated steelers in the 70s, and like michigan football… no affiliation to psu or steelers, but still…

    you shouldnt get fired for sticking up for someone who is pretty much family, and plus all the facts about the situation arent even out yet, every day something new comes out and this thing twists and turns,

    this thing is far from over…

    • jdmcg57 - Nov 16, 2011 at 4:05 PM

      I believe that the decision to let Franco Harris go was purely business. The company, The Meadows, that Harris is the spokeman for, is simply fearful that potential customers of the racetrack and casino may decide not to go to that particular casino because thay are upset at this entire mess and they do not want to have any association with anything from Penn St. Sad, but true however business is business.

  2. mgscott - Nov 16, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    is franco wrong? — maybe

    Um yes, Franco is wrong. Children were abused by one of Paternos coaches and Joe knew… FOR YEARS.

    Franco is ABSOLUTELY wrong. It’s not even a question.

    Don’t kid yourself.

    • lawrinson20 - Nov 16, 2011 at 2:20 PM

      This is ridiculous. Unless you’re Joe, you have no idea what Joe knew.

      But, regardless, whatever Joe knew has nothing to do with what Franco knows. Franco’s only speaking out in support of someone to whom he feels fierce loyalty, after a 40 year relationship. THAT is truly human. Dismissing a longtime friend based on a lot of media speculation would be “absolutely wrong.” Harris didn’t say anything any of Joe’s friends would have said. Nothing even remotely controversial.

      There hasn’t been a trial yet, people. Read the indictment. Even IT is a wholly factual document – its a statement of somewhat substantiated assertions – and it doesn’t even condemn Paterno.

      This situation isn’t nearly as simple as the simple-minded would like to believe. And, all the facts are not known.

      • toosano - Nov 16, 2011 at 7:31 PM

        Joe knew because he said he wished he had done more.

    • lrg51 - Nov 16, 2011 at 2:51 PM


      Like so many of us should blog… I suggest you begin your sentence with “In my opinion” or “I believe”… because many of us do not agree with you and you are not the final word.

      No one is kidding themselves… That’s a statement people make when they have nothing more to say…

  3. thejokewriter - Nov 16, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    Based on what he said…If hindsight is truly 20/20, I’m sure Franco is having his own “Immaculate Reflection.”

  4. gall34 - Nov 16, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    Unswerving “loyalty” is, in some respects, commendable whether to an individual (Joe Paterno) or an institution (PSU). Is that loyalty “misguided” if you don’t prosecute a serial child molester for fear of bringing discredit to PSU’s reputation? I’m afraid that dilemma would trouble many trustees. Do you want to keep quiet and let people go on thinking PSU always does things the right way or do you do the right thing–even if it costs PSU in prestige, enrollments and contributions.

  5. lawrinson20 - Nov 16, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    The Meadows: a knee-jerk reaction to a BAD PR issue. I don’t blame them from distancing themselves from anything related to Penn State, but they didn’t have to ‘suspend’ their Franco relationship publicly. If the dudes in charge had any character, they’d merely pull ads/promotions temporarily and say nothing about the rationale.

  6. debernardolaw - Nov 16, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    BRAVO FRANCO! He learned something about character at Penn State! “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child.” To Mr. Harris, I say: Ignore the current rabble. Years from now, your justifiable pride in yourself will heal any sting of today’s lashes.

    The Penn State Administration/Trustees are lashing themselves by lashing others – nay, trying to destroy others – in an effort to deflect their transparent, “protect-at-all-costs” ivory tower strategy, and force others to pay ANY price in an effort to shield them from responsibility. Whatever the admirable Mr. Harris learned at Penn State, we are certain he didn’t learn it from the Administration. Perforce, the Administration obviously learned nothing from Joe Paterno!

    Whatever you do, Mr. Harris, never apologize to anyone for what you said.

    What a shameless, gut-less, adult-abuser the Meadows management is! It is inspiring that mgscott, like many others, can divine what “Joe knew… FOR YEARS.” Tell us, All-Knowing, O Holy One, what else Joe knew or didn’t know, did, or didn’t do! (I apologize for my comment if you are just kidding yourself!)

    I predict Joe will be the saving grace of Penn State after the current contemptible charade against him is over. Encore! Mr. Harris! Encore!

    • jdmcg57 - Nov 16, 2011 at 4:14 PM

      It is truly sad that you can believe and state out loud your misguided feelings regarding this matter. This entire mess and ALL the young boys that were abused after 1998 or 2002 could have been avoided and lives not lost and ruined if Mr. Paterno had the GUTS to stand up to Sandusky and anyone else that allowed this abhorrent behavior to go on. They all hid for whatever reason and by doing so, all those children had to suffer through the abuse at the hands of a monster.
      I can understand loyality. I do not understand how anyone can look at this situation and have an iota of support for any of the Penn St. administration, including Mr. Paterno.

  7. mack2933 - Nov 16, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    Look, if you have a best friend that kills someone even if you support them in a “sense of loyalty to family,” sometimes you just have to support them by shutting the hell up!! No one wants to hear that you support a man that apparently knew that young boys were being violated in the worst way by a pedofile and you knew about it and did NOTHING!

    In my opinion, anyone, and I mean ANYONE who can stand in support of this publicly is a fool. This is just another celebrity who feels that his opinion will move the masses. Are we all supposed to say, “Hey, well Franco Harris is ok with it so it must be right.

    America doesn’t have a connection to “JoePa” like Penn State Aumni does!

  8. karla1953 - Nov 16, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    IMHO everyone needs to wait for the legal portion of this to play out…. No one really knows what all happened and it seems now the media is on the bandwagon all want action… Do I think Sandusky is guilty????? possibly but then again how many times has a case been tried in the court of public opinion as we are so horrified by the accusations only to find out that the facts are a bit different than presented in the media.

    This has been under investigation by a Grand Jury for at least 2 years and that means the Board of Trustees knew about it/why the sudden jump now????It seems that many are trying to cover their tails/let the legal process run its course…..JMO

    • jdmcg57 - Nov 16, 2011 at 4:21 PM

      If the court of public opinnion were the end-all Sandusky would be long gone as of now. Will true justice ever be served? There are eye witnesses to this vile disgusting behavior. Yes, eyewitnesses can be wrong? Yes they can however, the sooner he gets his the better off all of us will be, especially the victims.

  9. philcommander - Nov 16, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    I think youre all forgetting that he was an employee of this casino. He was their spokesperson. They can fire him if they want to. His freedom of speech assures him that he can’t get arrested for stating his opinion but it doesn’t protect his employment.
    Was Joepa right or wrong? Was Franco right or wrong? It doesn’t matter…this is simply a company wanting nothing to do with some institutions bad publicity. I don’t really see what the big deal is.

  10. florida727 - Nov 16, 2011 at 6:21 PM

    If you want an example of how the media can sensationalize a story, all you need to do is look at this article then read the story contents. It’s a lot sexier to say “Franco Got FIRED!” than it is to actually report the facts (they are suspending their relationship at this time). Granted, the casino likely will never use Franco’s image or likeness again, but until that’s made official, the headline is inaccurate solely for purposes of getting you/us to read the article.

    It’s like the last company that FIRED me… they say I got “downsized” or “laid off” or “my position was being eliminated”. It’s all a bullsh*t way of trying to be politically correct. Bottom line: Franco is out of a gig for speaking what he felt was the truth. It’s his opinion. Nothing more. If he was nearly as smart as he should have been, the only two words out of his mouth should have been “no comment”.

  11. bubba703 - Nov 16, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    Franco Harris is certainly free to express his opinion publically, but when you’re a hi profile paid spokesman , what you say publically can have ramifications. Since the overwhelming majority of casino customers are NOT rabid PSU football fans willing to ignore JoePa’s bad decisions, the casino was also within their rights to replace him.. Hopefully Franco will use hindsight to realize that sometimes, it’s better to simply shut up when it comes to convtroversial subjects..

  12. dirtyharry1971 - Nov 16, 2011 at 8:30 PM

    i never thought franco was all that smart to start with and after his “support” for jopa who did absolutely nothing when he should have called the police i think this is the right thing The Meadows Race Track and Casino did. I salute them for not wanting a fool as their spokesperson. Good for them!