Penn State coach addresses fan criticism of player’s hair

Ross Houston
October 9, 2019

Sutherland's teammates Antonio Shelton and C.J. Holmes denounced the letter on Twitter on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a Johnstown man who said he wrote the letter, still stands by its message -telling the Tribune-Democrat he never meant to be racist or culturally insensitive.

Dave Petersen, an opinionated 78-year-old fan from Johnstown, wrote to safety Johnathan Sutherland and called his dreadlocks "awful", "disgusting" and "not attractive".

Franklin spoke for almost three minutes about the values of diversity and togetherness created by college football at Penn State and then about Sutherland.

"You know that the football that I know and love brings people together and embraces differences black, white, brown, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim", Franklin said. He's the ultimate example of what our program is all about.


Despite his mediocre apology, Sutherland wrote on Twitter he took no "personal offense" to the letter-though he found Petersen's remarks "degrading".

"And I would be so blessed if my daughters would marry someone with his character and integrity one day".

"You will certainly be playing "on Sunday" in the future but we have stopped watching the National Football League due to the disgusting, tattoos, terrible hair and immature antics in the end zone", Petersen's letter stated. "As part of this, Penn State provides a range of assistance and resources for students and employees, and we encourage any community member who needs support to reach out". "Watching the Idaho game on TV we couldn't help but notice your -well - terrible hair". Later, Shelton also tweeted restraint.

Wyatt DuBois, a spokesman for Penn State, pointed PEOPLE to a statement issued earlier by Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour.

Safety Jonathan Sutherland received a letter from a Penn State alum that was critical of his appearance and said his "shoulder length (sic) dreadlocks look disgusting".


"We don't judge", Franklin said. "I was just disgruntled about some of the hairdos that we're seeing", he added, according to the Tribune-Democrat.

'While we don't know the source of this letter or the authenticity, obviously its content does not align with our values, ' the school said in a statement on Twitter. "When you see them and they are walking around campus, hit them with the Iowa, Iowa, Iowa". It was a despicable message that needed to be condemned. "And it's the same for the National Football League and NBA, too".

The player is chastised for not representing all Penn State alumni and adding that while the player will likely go on to the National Football League, the fan wouldn't be following his career, "we have stopped watching the National Football League due to the disgusting tattoos, very bad hair and immature antics in the end zone".

"Teams all over this country are the purest form of humanity that we have", Franklin said at a Tuesday news conference. This is the game I love, and more importantly, the players that I love and will defend like sons.

'Their dress, tattoos, or hairstyle has no impact on my support, nor does their gender, skin color, sexuality or religion! The only Jonathan on the team is Jonathan Sutherland, who has dreadlocks.


"I'm pretty sure whoever wrote that letter you'd want your kid to be like Jonathan Sutherland".

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