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Penn State Alum Slams Player's 'Disgusting' Dreads in Letter

Jonathan Sutherland's football coach quickly comes to his defense
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 9, 2019 1:33 PM CDT
Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (9) escapes from Penn State safety Jonathan Sutherland (26) and cornerback Jabari Butler (20) in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Ann...   (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
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(Newser) – After a Penn State alum sent a letter to a Nittany Lions football player criticizing his dreadlocks, the football coach has come out with a strong response. Jonathan Sutherland on Tuesday tweeted an image of the letter he received from Dave Peterson, which said, among other things, that he and his wife, also an alum, "miss the clean cut young men and women" from their days at the university and would welcome a dress code for athletes, and urged Sutherland to remember he represents both current students and alums when he plays. "Watching the Idaho game on TV we couldn't help but notice your—well—awful hair," the letter reads. "Surely there must be mirrors in the locker room! Don't you have parents or [a] girlfriend who've told you those shoulder length dreadlocks look disgusting and are certainly not attractive."

Sutherland's own gracious response, shared in the same tweet, said he forgives Peterson and urges readers not to fear being different. His coach, James Franklin, later denounced the letter, which was criticized by many as racist, ESPN reports. Sutherland is "the ultimate example of what our program is all about," Franklin says. "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." Penn State, too, "strongly condemned" the "intolerant" letter in a statement. Peterson's local paper, the Tribune-Democrat, spoke with him; he insisted he hadn't meant to make a racial or cultural comment. "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 ... And it's the same for the NFL and NBA, too." (Read more Penn State stories.)

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