Penn State community reacts to letter sent to football player with dreadlocks


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WTAJ) – A letter sent by a Penn State alum regarding the hair of one of the Penn State football players took social media by storm overnight.

Antonio Shelton, of the football team, tweeted a picture Monday evening of a letter his teammate Jonathan Sutherland received from an alum who says his teammate has “awful hair.”

“Surely there must be mirrors in the locker room! Don’t you have parents or girlfriend who’ve told you those shoulder length dreadlocks look disgusting and are certainly not attractive,” the letter reads.

Earlier Tuesday, Coach James Franklin addressed the letter with an opening statement, in which he defended his team, and Sutherland specifically.

Penn State also responded to the tweet by saying: “While we don’t know the source of this letter or the authenticity, obviously its content does not align with our values. We strongly condemn this message or any message of intolerance.”

Jonathan Sutherland, subject of the letter

Sutherland took to his own Twitter account to share his thoughts, saying that the message was “rude, ignorant, and judging,” but that he forgives the person who wrote the letter.

“I appreciate everyone who has reached out to me and showed their support,” he continued. “Let this be one of the many examples to us that in the year 2019, people of different cultures, religions, and ethnicities are still being discriminated against and it needs to stop.”

WTAJ was able to reach Dave Petersen, the man whose name is on the letter. He told the news outlet “no comment.”

Petersen, however, told the Tribune-Democrat that making a racist statement “was not the intent at all.”

“I was just disgruntled about some of the hairdos that we’re seeing. You think of Penn State as a bunch of clean-cut guys,” Petersen went on to tell the newspaper. “But that tattoos and the hair, there are a lot of guys with hair coming down their backs and it just looks awful.”

Penn State Athletic Director, Sandy Barbour, tweeted out a statement saying:

“I stand with our Penn State student athletes and appreciate how they represent PSU in competition, in the classroom and in the community. Their dress, tattoos, or hairstyle has no impact on my support, nor does their gender, skin color, sexuality or religion!”

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