Penn State fan sends racist letter to safety criticizing his dreadlocks - Sports Illustrated

Penn State Fan Sends Letter to Jonathan Sutherland Criticizing His Dreadlocks

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A Penn State fan sent a racist letter to safety Jonathan Sutherland criticizing his dreadlocks.

Fellow safety C.J. Holmes posted a photo of the letter on Twitter on Monday. It said:

"Dear Jonathan,

"My wife and I are proud ‘older’ graduates of Penn State. We follow all Penn State sports; football, wrestling, volleyball, gymnastics, basketball. We love it all. I played all the sports in my younger days; still played full-court basketball into my 50’s. Loved the competition but never had the size or talent to reach your level, though the desire was there!

"Though the athletes of today are certainly superior to those in my days; we miss the clean cut young men and women from those days. Watching the Idaho game on TV, we couldn’t help but notice your–well–awful hair. Surely there must be mirrors in the locker room! Don’t you have parents or a girlfriend who have told you those shoulder-length dreadlocks look disgusting and are certainly not attractive.

"We congratulate you on your game against Pitt, but you need to remember you represent all Penn Staters both current and alumni from years past. We would welcome the reappearance of dress code for athletes.

“You will certainly be playing 'on Sunday' in the future but we have stopped watching the NFL due to the disgusting tattoos, awful hair and immature antics in the end zone. Players should act as though they’ve ‘been there before.’ [sic]"

"I also have locs, Tats, and NFL dreams too, these messages can not be tolerated, this was extremely inappropriate, racially biased, and selfish to feel like you even have a right to send this message," Holmes said on Twitter about the letter.

Other football players called out the letter's message on Twitter, including former NFL linebacker James Laurinaitis, who said he received some "awful letters" during his playing days at Ohio State.

"This is pathetic but I’m not surprised. I got a couple awful letters after I got tattoos before sophomore year from OSU ‘fans’ too, letting me know how disappointed they were in my decision."

Sutherland has yet to address the letter on social media.

The Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, Penn. contacted the letter writer, David Peterson, on Tuesday. Peterson, who graduated from Penn State in 1966 with a degree in speech pathology, said it "was not the intent" to make a racial or political statement.

"I would just like to see the coaches get the guys cleaned up and not looking like Florida State and Miami guys," he told the newspaper.

Penn State coach James Franklin addressed the media over the letter on Tuesday.

"The football that I know and love brings people together and embraces differences," he said. "Black, white, brown, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim. Rich or poor, rural or urban, Republican or Democrat. Long hair, short hair, no hair. They're all in that locker room together. Teams all over this country are the purest form of humanity that we have."

Franklin later added: "Jonathan Sutherland is one of the most respected players in our program. He's the ultimate example of what our program is all about."

Sandy Barbour, Penn State's vice president for intercollegiate athletics, shared her support for Sutherland on social media on Tuesday.

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

Penn State also released a statement on Monday night:

"At Penn State we strive to create an atmosphere that promotes inclusivity and respect. The well-being of students, faculty and staff members is the University’s priority," the university said, per "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.”