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Posted under: News

Penn State University Responds After Racist Letter From Alumnus Tells Black Football Player His Locs Are 'Disgusting'

The 1966 alumnus of Penn State called Jonathan Sutherland's dreadlocks "awful" and "disgusting."

People are pushing for Penn State University to take action after one of its alums sent a controversial letter to a star football player, calling his locs “awful” and “disgusting.” 

In a letter addressed to team captain Jonathan Sutherland, 1966 Penn State alumnus Dave Petersen made a point to denounce the player’s hair, saying he misses “the clean-cut young men and women” from his days in college. 

“Don’t you have parents or [a] girlfriend who’ve told you those shoulder-length dreadlocks look disgusting and are certainly not attractive,” Peterson wrote in the letter. 

A picture of the letter was first posted to Twitter by one of Sutherland’s teammates, who captioned it by saying, “Explain to me how this isn’t racist.”

People responded instantly, calling Petersen and his letter racist while demanding action from the university. 

The school’s official Twitter account responded in the thread of comments stating, “While we don’t know the source of this letter or the authenticity, obviously its content does not align with our values. We strongly condemn this message or any message of intolerance.”

According to ESPN, Petersen wrote he believes Sutherland will one day make it to the National Football League, although he and his wife no longer watch professional football “due to the disgusting tattoos, awful hair and immature antics in the end zone.” 

Sutherland, who is a member of Penn State's football special teams unit, shared the letter on his Twitter account and offered his own response to Petersen. 


“At the end of the day, without an apology needed, I forgive this individual because I’m nowhere close to being perfect and I expect God to forgive me for all the wrong I’ve done in my life,” he wrote. 

The Tribune-Democrat spoke with Petersen who insisted he did not intend for the letter to come off racist. 

“Was not the intent at all,” he told the Tribune-Democrat. “I would just like to see the coaches get the guys cleaned up and not looking like Florida State and Miami guys.” 

He also emphasized that his letter was not threatening, but instead, he was disgruntled about the appearance of Penn State's players. 

“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," Petersen added. 

Head football coach James Franklin responded to the incident, saying “The football that I know and love brings people together and embraces differences – [B]lack, 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. This is my football. This is the game that I love and most importantly my players I love, and will defend like sons.”

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Chelsea is a proud HBCU alumna of Winston-Salem State University and graduate of Georgetown University, who can't turn down a trip to the Wharf, a tall cup of Half-and-Half, and a moment to catch up on her favorite podcasts.