CALGARY - Stampeder quarterback Henry Burris says he was just playing devil's advocate in a Twitter debate about Penn State that drew a sharp retort from former NHL player Theoren Fleury.
Burris asked his followers Wednesday how much responsibility Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno bears for the child sex abuse scandal involving his former defensive co-ordinator.
"If Paterno had seen it happen with his own eyes he should report it but he didn't! He received info from someone who say(s) he did! What to do?" Burris tweeted.
Fleury says he was sexually abused by hockey coach Graham James, who has been charged with sex offences in Manitoba.
Fleury commented: "ok so they talked covered it up and allowed (Jerry) Sandusky to keep molesting boys. Come on Hank. (You're) better than that."
The legendary Paterno has faced outrage that he did not take more action after a graduate assistant came to him in 2002 and reported seeing Sandusky in the Penn State showers with a 10-year-old boy. Paterno notified the athletic director and a vice-president, both of whom have since been charged with failing to report the incident to the authorities.
Paterno, who hasn't been accused of legal wrongdoing, said in a statement that, "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999, has maintained his innocence through his lawyer.
Burris says he's not an apologist for Paterno, but wanted to get people talking about the issue.
"We can bring light to this situation and I'm glad that Theo got involved," the quarterback said following Stampeder practice. "I'm glad we had the discussion we did on Twitter.
"For me to get people here today and talking about it, that was my main point because I want people to know that's not acceptable."
Fleury did not immediately respond to a message left by The Canadian Press. James has been charged in Manitoba with sexual exploitation, sexual assault and gross indecency and Fleury is one of three complainants in the case.
"Recently I've been going back and forth with Henry Burris on this disgusting Penn State debacle," Fleury wrote on his website. "I have one stand. If an adult has even the slightest suspicion that a child is being abused, it is your duty as an adult to stand up for that child and do something now."
The scandal has rocked the sports community, particularly football, throughout North America. Burris and Fleury are prominent sports figures in Calgary. Fleury is a former Flame who helped Calgary win a Stanley Cup in 1989.
Burris, who played college ball at Temple, was the Stampeders' starting quarterback until recently. The 36-year-old was the CFL's Most Outstanding Player last season.
When asked by reporters about their earlier Twitter exchange, Burris was in agreement with Fleury.
"If people see something like that going on, you should report it right away," Burris said. "If I see something like that, I report it right away, if I don't beat the crap out of somebody.
"I've talked to Theo a number of times about the situation and we've weighed in on it together."
Burris also had a message for sexual predators.
"If there are people out there who have those thoughts, go get help right away," he said to reporters. "Don't damage somebody's life because yours is already."
Burris is the father of two young sons and also works with the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters. He's a regular on Twitter and often posts messages about life's lessons.
But Burris got into hot water earlier this season when a crude tweet was posted under his account. The Calgary Stampeders were satisfied Burris wasn't the author and intended to find out if his account was hacked.
Stampeder head coach and general manager John Hufnagel was quarterback at Penn State under Paterno from 1970 to 1972. Hufnagel said Wednesday he hadn't heard his former coach was stepping down and didn't have an opinion "at this time."