On Saturday, Penn State football players tried to unify in solidarity with a teammate who was criticized for his looks by an alumnus but was stopped short and had their t-shirts with unified messaging confiscated.
During the pregame, the Penn State Nittany Lions football players wore t-shirts with the saying, “Chains, Tattoos, Dreads, & WE ARE” to show support after safety Jonathan Sutherland was slammed by an alumnus who said his dreadlocks looked “disgusting.”
The shirts, however, were seized because they didn’t inform officials beforehand about their intentions.
“While we are supportive of our students expressing themselves in a thoughtful manner, they are expected to wear team-issued apparel on game day,” Penn State said in a statement released during the game, according to ESPN. “We asked our students to remove the shirts out of an abundance of caution for NCAA compliance.”
The move reportedly upset coach James Franklin who was left out of the loop on the players’ plans.
Last week, a letter David Petersen sent to Sutherland made waves online after Penn State defensive end Antonio Shelton shared a screenshot of a racist letter on Twitter. Petersen addressed it to “Johnathan” who was assumed to be junior safety Jonathan Sutherland, who wears locs, Yahoo reports.
“One of my teammates got this. Explain to me how this isn’t racist,” Shelton wrote.
It went on to disparage Sutherland’s look, and slam him for wearing dreads that peek out from under his helmet. It was also critical of NFL players sporting tattoos. Petersen also called for the school to change its dress code policy.
The letter stated in part:
“Watching the Idaho game on TV we couldn’t help but notice your — well — awful hair. Surely there must be mirrors in the locker room! Don’t you have parents or girlfriend who’ve told you those shoulder length dreadlocks look disgusting and are certainly not attractive. (sic)
Franklin quickly launched a rebuttal in strong support of his player.
“Jonathan Sutherland is one of the most respected players in our program,” Franklin said of the redshirt junior. “He’s the ultimate example of what our program is all about. 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.”
Franklin reportedly didn’t feel like the t-shirt message wasn’t needed because he felt the team squashed the issue last week.