Penn State football coach responds to letter calling player's dreadlocks 'disgusting'

STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The Pennsylvania State University football coach responded Tuesday to a letter sent to one of his players, targeting him for wearing dreadlocks.

Penn State defensive tackle Antonio Shelton tweeted an image of the letter on Monday that attacks fellow player Jonathan Sutherland's hair, calling dreadlocks "disgusting and not attractive."

The letter, sent by Penn State grad Dave Petersen, goes on to attack NFL players for their appearance as well.

"...we have stopped watching the NFL due to disgusting tattoos, awful hair and immature antics in the end zone," the letter says.

In a tweet Monday night, the university said the letter does not align with the school's values.

"We strongly condemn this message or any message of intolerance," the tweet said.

Penn Staters we spoke with Tuesday night were simply disgusted.

Mary Mahoney, a graduate who lives in Rittenhouse, said, "Any background, anything. There are Penn Staters from all over the world. We have to love everybody."

"I just think it's wrong to comment on an appearance. Male, female, whatever color, how you wear your hair," said Caitlin Gaffney.

On Tuesday, Penn State coach James Franklin echoed those sentiments, saying the message in the letter does not fit with the spirit of football.

"You know that the football that I know and love brings people together and embraces differences: black, white, brown, Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim, rich or poor, rural or urban, Republican or Democrat. Long hair, short hair, no hair," Franklin said. "We don't judge. We embrace differences. We live. We learn. We grow. We support and we defend each other. We're a family."

Sutherland also responded to the letter on Tuesday with a statement on social media.

"Although the message was indeed rude, ignorant and judging, I've taken no personal offense to it," he said.

He then forgave Petersen.

Petersen told The Tribune-Democrat that it was not his intent to make a racial or cultural 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 paper.
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