BY Anaya Vance
On Oct. 7, Pennsylvania State University student athlete Johnathan Sutherland received a letter from a returning alumnus, Dave Peterson, in which he expressed some personal feelings on Sutherland’s look.
The letter said Sutherland’s shoulder-length dreadlocks looked “disgusting.”
“Watching the Idaho game on TV, we couldn’t help but notice your awful hair. Surely there must be mirrors in the locker room! Don’t you have parent or a girlfriend who’ve told you these shoulder length dreadlocks look disgusting and are certainly not attractive,” wrote Peterson.
Peterson ended the letter stating that he has stopped watching the NFL due to disgusting tattoos, awful hair, and immature antics in the end zone.
Sutherland posted the letter along with his response on Twitter and Instagram on Oct. 8 and it went viral. He received 9,625 likes on his post on Instagram and 699 comments, including ones from rapper T.I, retired NFL player Jovon Johnson, and other Penn State football players and supporters.
Sutherland ended his response on Instagram with, “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. Don’t be scared to be different.”
A popular social media page called The Shade Room reposted Sutherland’s letter and received 68,353 likes and 5,313 comments on Instagram
As a football player with dreads and tattoos at a Division I University, Sacred Heart’s fifth-year running back, Eli Terry, had his own personal feelings on this matter.
“If this would of happen to me, I would’ve let Mr. Peterson know that his comments were racist and prejudiced because my dreads and tattoos are a part of my culture and I would not change for anyone. I think the school should ban certain alumni if they’re going to antagonize players for the way they look.”
Prior to the growing social media attention of this letter, Penn State players wore T-shirts reading “Chains, Tattoos, Dreads & WE ARE” before their game against Iowa but were asked to remove them.
The Associated Press reported that the Penn State athletic team had asked the players to remove the shirts out of an abundance of caution for NCAA compliance.
Penn State coach James Franklin opened his weekly press conference on Tuesday with a passionate defense of Sutherland, praising him as “the ultimate example of what our program is all about,” AP reported. Franklin addressed the letter indirectly. He said, “The football that I know and love brings people together and embraces differences.” The coach complimented Sutherland for being “the ultimate example of what our program’s about.”
Head Coach Mark Nofri of Sacred Heart’s Division I football team said, “Coach Franklin runs an outstanding football program. He holds all his players in high regard and teaches them lifelong lessons, along with developing them to be better football players. I think Coach Franklin did an outstanding job handling the situation.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.