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Nearly 300 former Penn State athletes who played under Paterno have released a statement criticizing the movie, which they say is "uninformed," and standing behind their former coach.
"[Paterno] has been described by producer Barry Levinson as a work of fiction, which is likely the only truth in the entire project," the alumni wrote. "Incredibly, in making the movie, Levinson and his team never consulted a single person who was close to, worked with, or was coached by Joe Paterno. Not even family members or us, who undoubtedly knew him best of all."
The alumni went on to bash Levinson for using fiction as a shield to take liberties in telling the story.
"As a coach, educator, and philanthropist, Joe Paterno was a positive force in our lives, molding us not only to win games, but to win in life," they wrote. "His character, integrity, and moral compass will live on in us long after the ill-gotten ratings of this reckless attempt at entertainment fades away."
Read the full statement. Among those who signed the letter: Franco Harris and Ki-Jana Carter.
This falls in line with the statement the Paterno family released before the film premiered: "The HBO movie regarding Joe Paterno is a fictionalized portrayal of the tragic events surrounding Jerry Sandusky's crimes. Numerous scenes, events and dialogue bear no resemblance to what actually transpired."
Levinson said in a release that viewers will be left to make their own judgment:
"Paterno is not a sprawling piece that spans years. It unfolds largely over a two-week period, when we watch the events play out. I'm not following an agenda or trying to tell the audience to take a certain side in regards to Coach Paterno. The film lays out the elements of the story and leaves you to make your own judgment. There are times when you may feel one way, and times when you may feel a totally different way, and I think that's what makes the piece so compelling. Joe Paterno was known as an honorable man, an educator, a humanitarian—so trying to make sense out of what happened is, for me, the most fascinating aspect of the story. What did he understand? What did he not understand?"
Joe Paterno was fired in November 2011, three days after longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested.