Penn State football coach James Franklin defends player targeted in racist letter

UPI Sports 2 months ago

Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Penn State Nittany Lions head football coach James Franklin denounced a racially insensitive letter that was sent to a player on the team.

Nittany Lions safety Jonathan Sutherland received a letter from a PSU alum that criticized his appearance, saying his "shoulder length dreadlocks look disgusting."

In response to the critical letter, Franklin defended Sutherland during his weekly news conference Tuesday.

"Jonathan Sutherland is one of the most respected players in our program," Franklin told reporters. "He's the ultimate example of what our program is all about. He's a captain, he's a dean's list honor student, he's confident, he's articulate, he's intelligent, he's thoughtful, he's caring and he's committed.

"He's got two of the most supportive parents, and I would be so blessed if my daughters would marry someone with his character and integrity one day."

In the letter, written by Johnstown, Pa., resident Dave Petersen, Sutherland's hair and overall appearance are criticized. Petersen, who described himself as an "older" graduate of the university, said in the letter that he and his wife "miss the clean cut young men and women from those days."

Petersen also wrote that while he believes Sutherland will play in the NFL later in his career, he and his wife "have stopped watching the NFL due to the disgusting tattoos, awful hair and immature antics in the end zone."

In a statement posted Tuesday on Twitter, Sutherland called Petersen's opinions "degrading," but said he took "no personal offense."

Petersen told the Tribune-Democrat, a newspaper in Johnstown, that he didn't intend for his letter to contain a racist message.

"Was not the intent at all," Petersen said. "I would just like to see the coaches get the guys cleaned up and not looking like Florida State and Miami guys."

Petersen added that the letter "wasn't threatening or anything. 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. And you do see so many who are clean cut. But the tattoos and the hair -- there are a lot of guys with hair coming down their backs and it just looks awful. And it's the same for the NFL and NBA, too."

Penn State University responded to the letter on social media, saying the school strongly condemns the message or any message of intolerance.


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