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Penn State Football Players React To Racist Letter Sent To Jonathan Sutherland

Several Penn State football players have come to the defense of redshirt sophomore safety Jonathan Sutherland, who received a racist letter from a fan that was documented on Twitter on Monday evening.

Defensive tackle Antonio Shelton was the first player to share a photo of the letter, and running back-turned-safety CJ Holmes soon followed:

Both players’ tweets got more than 10,000 retweets and 40,000 likes, and Twitter even compiled a news event about the letter. Whether it was on social media or during media availabilities, many of Sutherland’s teammates addressed the letter he received.

Will Fries and Micah Parsons — the two players who addressed the media at Penn State’s weekly press conference at Beaver Stadium — both addressed the letter.

“I think that any time we hit some adversity, such as things like this, it brings us closer together,” Fries said. “Those remarks were negative, and we have each others’ back. As far as Sutherland goes, he’s the gold standard. He’s not only a great player, but a great human being in general. His character is extremely high. He’s my locker neighbor, and I’m proud to sit next to him.”

“People are always going to have an opinion about someone,” Parsons added. “But as a locker room, we’re always going to remain tight. Jonathan’s going through it emotionally. We’ll carry him, but we’ll come together even more and become more of a brotherhood.”

Elsewhere, defensive end Shaka Toney echoed the sentiment of James Franklin’s statement on the issue during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday morning.

“Sutherland does everything right,” Toney said. “He’s mature — he’s a pro’s pro, some would say. He does well in school, he’s already a captain, he’s only what, a sophomore? Jonathan Sutherland is a model football player. I’m pretty sure whoever wrote that letter — if they met Jonathan Sutherland, they’d want their kid to be like him.”

Other players — including Trace McSorley, Aeneas Hawkins, and Fred Hansard — also shared their thoughts on the letter and support for Sutherland on Twitter.

Penn State men’s basketball star Lamar Stevens also responded to the comments.

At the end of the day, the letter won’t end up having any tangible impact on Penn State’s preparation.

” We are going to ignore that. You can’t put energy into negative things,” Toney said. “We are just going to keep on pushing forward. We’re not going to worry about some lunatic talking behind his computer and didn’t even put a real name on it.”

The letter was signed by a Penn State alumnus named Dave Petersen. The Tribune-Democrat — a local newspaper based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania — confirmed with Petersen that he sent the letter to Sutherland.

In the letter, Petersen said Sutherland’s “shoulder length dreadlocks look disgusting and are certainly not attractive.” According to the letter, he and his wife “miss the clean cut young men and women” that played sports in the past, and he also said that they stopped watching NFL games “due to the disgusting tattoos, awful hair and immature antics in the end zone.”

“We congratulate you on your game against Pitt but you need to remember you represent all Penn Staters both current and those alumni from the past,” Petersen wrote. “We would welcome the reappearance of dress codes for athletes.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]


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