A Penn State alum who graduated the same year as longtime pedophile coach Jerry Sandusky had the audacity to send a letter to a black football player calling his dreadlocks “disgusting,” while longing for the days of old.
The letter sent to 21-year-old safety Jonathan Sutherland appeared to have been signed by class of 1966 alumni Dave Petersen. The standout defensive player posted the missive on Twitter.
It starts with the author — who uses a lot of exclamation points — boasting about his own athletic prowess and adding he and his wife, also a Penn State grad, “miss the clean cut young men and women from those days.”
Petersen then seems to offer unsolicited grooming tips to the dreadlocked Sutherland.
“Watching the Idaho game on TV we couldn’t help but notice your — well — awful hair,” the letter said. “Surely there must be mirrors in the locker room!”
In the letter, Petersen doesn’t watch professional football because he finds NFL players’ appearances unacceptable, according to the single-page note.
“Don’t you have parents or girlfriend who’ve told you those shoulder length dreadlocks look disgusting and are certainly not attractive?” the letter asked.
Penn State faculty and supporters took to social media en masse to show support for Sutherland.
“I stand with our Penn State student athletes and appreciate how they represent PSU in competition, in the classroom and in the community,” wrote vice president for intercollegiate athletics Sandy Barbour. "Their dress, tattoos, or hairstyle has no impact on my support, nor does their gender, skin color, sexuality or religion!”
The university tweeted that it “strongly condemn(ed)" the letter or any message expressing intolerance.
“As a ‘17 graduate, and LIFELONG PSU FAN I can wholeheartedly say you, and the rest of the team represent the University perfectly and make past, present, and future Penn Staters PROUD!” tweeted one Penn State supporter.
“Jonathan, I am a former Nittany Lion, PSU ‘83, great response and I am 100% behind you,” wrote another fan. “You make me proud to be an alumni.”
Coach James Franklin led the charge on Twitter and at a news conference Tuesday, according to ESPN.
“Jonathan Sutherland is one of the most respected players in our program,” said Franklin. "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.
Franklin also congratulated Sutherland’s parents for raising a good young man.
“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.” the coach said.
Olsen told a local Pennsylvania news outlet, The Tribune-Democrat, that he didn’t intend for his letter to be racially inflammatory.
“I would just like to see the coaches get the guys cleaned up and not looking like Florida State and Miami guys.” he said.
Until now, Penn State’s most infamous 1966 grad had been Sandusky, who played on the Nittany Lions’ football team from 1963 to 1965. He immediately went to work for legendary head coach Joe Paterno whom he served under in various coaching capacities until 1999, minus a two-year break starting in 1967.
It wasn’t until 2008 that Pennsylvania’s attorney general opened an investigation into sex abuse claims against Sandusky resulting in nearly 50 charges of sexual abuse committed against boys. Sandusky, 75, is serving a 30-to-60-year sentence that was handed down after 45 convictions. It was announced Monday that a new judge had been assigned to resentence the disgraced former coach after an appeals court ruled in February that mandatory minimums were not properly applied, according to CBS in Pittsburgh.
Sandusky’s conviction also led to the school’s board of trustees firing Paterno after 46-years of service to Penn State’s football program. Paterno, who died three months later, was criticized for not doing more to curb his underling’s conduct. He’d already announced his retirement before being canned. The school’s president also resigned because of the scandal and the NCAA hit Penn State with sanctions.
Sutherland and his dreadlocks lead the undefeated, 10th-ranked Nittany Lions into Iowa Saturday for a showdown with the seventeenth ranked Hawkeyes. They have outscored opponents by a score of 156 to 30 so far this season.