UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WJAC/CNN/Gray News) – Pennsylvania State University officials are addressing a letter apparently sent to a football player that some are calling racist.
Penn State defensive tackle Antonio Shelton tweeted an image of the letter Monday, writing: “One of my teammates got this. Explain to me how this isn’t racist.”
The letter appears to be addressed to player Jonathan Sutherland. It attacks Sutherland’s hairstyle, saying his dreadlocks “ look disgusting” and “are certainly not attractive," and goes on to attack NFL players for their appearance as well.
The letter was signed by Dave Petersen, who claims to be a Penn State graduate.
The university reacted to the letter in a tweet, 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.”
Penn State head coach James Franklin said the message in the letter does not fit with the spirit of football.
"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. They’re all in that locker room together,” Franklin said Tuesday.
“Teams all over this country are the purest form of humanity that we have. We don't judge. We embrace differences. We live. We learn. We grow. We support and we defend each other. We're a family."
Franklin also defended Sutherland, calling him “one of the most respected players” in the Penn State football program.
“He's the ultimate example of what our program is all about,” Franklin said. “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. He’s got two of the most supportive parents. I would be so blessed if my daughters would marry someone with his character and integrity one day."
Sutherland also responded to the letter Tuesday, writing: "Although the message was indeed rude, ignorant, and judging, I’ve taken no personal offense to it because personally, I must respect you as a person before I respect your opinion.
“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.”