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Penn State Football Players Wear T-Shirts To Support Jonathan Sutherland During Pre-Game Warmups

Update 9:21 p.m.: Penn State has released a statement clarifying why a team official confiscated the players’ t-shirts supporting Jonathan Sutherland:

While we are supportive of our students expressing themselves in a thoughtful manner, they are expected to wear team-issued apparel on game day. We asked our students to remove the shirts out of an abundance of caution for NCAA compliance.

Penn State Athletics

Original Story: Penn State football’s players wore t-shirts that read “Chains, Tattoos, Dreads, & WE ARE” prior to their game against Iowa on Saturday night.

Here’s a look at junior safety Lamont Wade wearing the shirt, courtesy of The Athletic‘s Audrey Snyder:

A Penn State official came around and took the shirts away from the players shortly after the team began warming up.

The t-shirts were originally designed by Champs, and the bar announced that it would sell them at its downtown location on Allen St. in an Instagram post that has since been deleted. At this time, it’s unclear how Penn State’s football players got their hands on the shirts.

The shirts were designed in response to the racist letter Sutherland received from a Penn State alumnus. Antonio Shelton posted a photo of the letter in which Dave Petersen, who graduated from the university in 1966, called Sutherland’s dreadlocks “disgusting and certainly not attractive.”

“We miss the clean cut young men and women from those days,” Petersen wrote. “Watching the Idaho game on TV we couldn’t help but notice your – well – awful hair. … You need to remember you represent all Penn Staters both current and those alumni from years past. We would welcome the reappearance of dress codes for athletes.”

Shelton’s original post went viral and sparked a huge reaction on Twitter and beyond. James Franklin opened his weekly press conference with a statement addressing the letter in which he backed Sutherland fully and spoke to the game of football’s innate ability to bring people together.

Additionally, Sutherland’s teammates came to his defense both on Twitter and at media availabilities throughout the week. Sutherland himself released a statement expressing his forgiveness to the letter’s author on Tuesday afternoon.

ESPN’s College GameDay also spent part of Saturday morning discussing the letter. Host Rece Davis condemned the letter and praised Sutherland and Franklin for their responses to it.

“Here’s where we usually tell [Dave Petersen] to hush, and he should, but I suggest he write two more letters right now,” Davis added. “Number one, he needs to write a public apology for embarrassing Penn State. He’s the one who embarrassed Penn State, not their fan base. And he needs to write another one to Jonathan Sutherland and tell him he was wrong and try to show the same kind of grace that Sutherland showed to him.”

Petersen himself told the Tribune-Democrat — a local newspaper based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania — that the letter “wasn’t threatening or anything,” and he sent it because he was “just disgruntled about some of the hairdos that we’re seeing.”

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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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