SINCE LAST NOVEMBER, Oregonian editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman has fired satirical salvos at neighboring Nike over the name of its youth care facility:
Joe Paterno Child Development Center.
Especially in light of the newly released Freeh Report on the Penn State child abuse scandal — and the late coach’s shameful role in it — the center’s very name reads like sick satire and one cruel joke.
As Ohman says, it’s like calling a structure the Heinrich Himmler Medical Center.
Now, Nike President/CEO Mark Parker has announced that the sports equipment/apparel company will drop Paterno’s name from the center. Heck, Parker even dropped direct reference to Paterno’s name from his statement.
“I have been deeply saddened by the news coming out of this investigation at Penn State,” Parker, a Penn State alumnus, said in the statement. “It is a terrible tragedy that children were unprotected from such abhorrent crimes.
“With the findings released [Thursday], I have decided to change the name of our child care center at our World Headquarters. My thoughts are with the victims and the Penn State community.”
After months of railing against Nike on this issue, Ohman feels that at least this wrong has been righted.
“I’m not going to claim full credit for this,” the Portland cartoonist tells Comic Riffs on Friday. “But I am going to claim partial credit for this.
“I was banging on this [issue] before — early on — along with the Forbes columnist” late last year.
[PENN STATE SCANDAL: Six striking cartoons]
Ohman not only kept pounding on this issue, he says; he also pounded on Nike’s door.
“I physically was going over to Nike ... ,” Ohman tells us. “I even went to the security bunker — which is what they call it.” Through his cartoons and social media, Ohman pressed to have the name changed.
The refusal to do so, he says, “was so comically inept from the get-go.”
Then, a week before the Freeh Report was released Thursday, Ohman says he approached Nike for answers. He says the Beaverton, Ore.-based company hadn’t commented on this matter for months.
Anecdotally, though, Ohman says he heard that many Nike employees were mortified by the refusal to change the center’s name.
One employee who earlier hadn’t appeared mortified was Nike co-founder Phil Knight. In January, eulogizing at Paterno’s funeral, Knight called Paterno his “hero” and said that Paterno — and the coach’s reponse to the events — should not be made a villain in this tragedy.
“Throughout Joe Paterno’s career, he strived to put young athletes in a position to succeed and win in sport but most importantly in life,” Knight says now in a statement, in the wake of the report. “Joe influenced thousands of young men to become better leaders, fathers and husbands.
“According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences. I missed that Joe missed it, and I am extremely saddened on this day. My love for Joe and his family remains.”
Last month, longtime Paterno assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts related to sexually abusing boys.
According to Forbes, Nike’s child development center opens its doors daily to about 200 children younger than 5.
Ohman recently e-mailed questions to Nike and says the company answered “1.5” of them — mainly to insist that it was not changing the name of its Paterno center. (Nike hasn’t announced what the center’s new name will be.)
Now, Ohman says he has mixed emotions toward Nike.
“Nike is headquartered here and I want them to succeed,” Ohman tells Comic Riffs. “Some of my best friends work at Nike, they make excellent products [but still] ... .
A Nike failure is an Oregon failure is a national failure.”
As for how he uses his role as a prominent voice in a small state, Ohman says that he typically likes to work subtle, but that this wasn’t the time to do so.
“I think selective outrage is a very good thing,” he says, “and I am screaming on this one.”
[JOHN FEINSTEIN: No pedestals for coaches]
[SALLY JENKINS: Paterno cared more about legacy than victims]