Ex-Penn State star suggests letter over player's dreadlocks shows some fans yearn for Joe Paterno era

Ex-Penn State star suggests letter over player's dreadlocks shows some fans yearn for Joe Paterno era

October 9, 2019

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Former Penn State football star LaVar Arrington addressed a letter an alumnus of the school wrote to a current player objecting to his dreadlocks.

Arrington, who played at Penn State from 1997 to 1999 and was the No. 2 overall pick of the 2000 NFL Draft, said Tuesday in an appearance on Fox Sports’ “Speak For Yourself” that the letter – sent to Penn State defensive back Jonathan Sutherland – reflects a certain portion of the fan base that yearns for the days of Joe Paterno.

“The reality here is: that is very much the culture that Joe Paterno built,” Arrington said. “The culture of, when you come to this school … I came to that school, I’m a kid from the city of Pittsburgh. I’m a Pittsburgh born-and-bred dude. That’s city, that’s urban. You come to this school and, now you’re not allowed to wear earrings, you’re not allowed to have facial hair.”

He added: “The ideology of, if it doesn’t fit the mold of what it is that is acceptable, then it’s disgusting. Then it is inappropriate. It is incorrect, it’s not right. The reason why it’s been so embraced and became such a fabric of Penn State is because of the type of success Penn Staters have been able to have outside of the game of football.”

Jonathan Sutherland #26 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates after a tackle against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the second half at Beaver Stadium on September 14, 2019 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Arrington suggested that the new regime run by James Franklin creates a divide with fans who grew up watching Paterno’s teams on the field.

“What you’re seeing here is a disconnect,” Arrington said. “Those kids, young men, who saw the letter and were offended by the letter — which they should’ve been offended by the letter — they know nothing about Joe Paterno. Joe Paterno’s been gone. They may know some of the things that happened in that past, but they’re not connected to that past. The coach is not connected to that past.”


The letter criticized Sutherland's dreadlocks and yearned for years past when players didn’t have “disgusting tattoos, awful hair and immature antics in the end zone.”

Sutherland commented on the letter.

“Although the message was indeed rude, ignorant, and judging, I've taken no personal offense to it because personally, I must respect (him) as a person before I respect your opinion,” Sutherland wrote in a statement posted onto his Twitter account. “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.”

Dave Peterson, who signed the letter, told the Tribune-Democrat that he didn’t intend his letter to be a cultural or racial statement.

Sutherland’s teammates Antonio Shelton and C.J. Holmes denounced the letter on Twitter on Tuesday.


Penn State is 5-0 this season and is set to take on Iowa on Saturday.

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