The Penn State alumnus who sent a letter to a player on the school’s football team about the player's "awful hair" has made more racially insensitive comments.
David Petersen was contacted by Tribune Media regarding the letter and the ensuing firestorm it started.
In comments made to the outlet, Petersen said he was unaware that his letter sparked such outrage and in no way was he trying to make a racial or cultural statement.
“[That] was not the intent at all,” said Petersen. “I would just like to see the coaches get the guys cleaned up and not looking like Florida State and Miami guys."
There’s the rub. What exactly do “Florida State” and “Miami guys” look like?
In his letter to Penn State player Jonathan Sutherland, there is apparently an aesthetic standard that Petersen believes is “clean” and acceptable. The letter in part reads:
“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.”
Sutherland and all his teammates wear Penn State uniforms and gear when they represent the university. What sort of dress code does Petersen think is necessary to represent “all” Penn Staters?
This is yet another example of the types of daily microaggressions people of color face at the hands of the mainstream.
What makes these incidents so particularly appalling and insufferable is the ignorance feigned by Petersen and people that think as he does.
The notion that someone’s choice of hairstyle is offensive, or not seen as “clean” or “appropriate,” is ludicrous.
Petersen is adhering to a eurocentric standard of aesthetic and appearance that is thought of as acceptable. Which means anything that falls short of that is deemed unappealing or negative.
The racial biases are clear.
Petersen’s reference to “Florida State” and “Miami guys” traces back to the history of college football and the ways in which media narratives were created around players from those two Florida schools versus the players from Penn State.
Penn State officials have stood behind Sutherland and the players. Sandy Barbour, Penn State's vice president for intercollegiate athletics, tweeted a statement:
"I stand with our Penn State student athletes and appreciate how they represent PSU in competition, in the classroom and in the community. Their dress, tattoos, or hairstyle has no impact on my support, nor does their gender, skin color, sexuality or religion!"
There are those who say it might be a generational thing with Petersen and that he’s from a different time. Petersen graduated from Penn State in 1966.
"It wasn't threatening or anything. I was just disgruntled about some of the hairdos that we're seeing. You think of Penn State as a bunch of clean-cut guys. And you do see so many who are clean cut. But the tattoos and the hair – there are a lot of guys with hair coming down their backs and it just looks awful. And it's the same for the NFL and NBA, too."
Sure, this does sound like a man from a different time. The problem is, this rhetoric has been used throughout the course of time. Past, present, and likely will be in the future.